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PBY Catalina to fly into Oak Harbor, land on Crescent Harbor

Veteran pilots, crewmen of World War II, Oak Harbor oldtimers and aviation history buffs will have “eyes on the sky” over Crescent Harbor at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18, as a familiar silhouette emerges from Saratoga Passage.

A 1940s-vintage PBY Catalina will arrive and land in Crescent Harbor then taxi up to the Navy Seaplane Base for the first time in about 65 years.

The 6A model of the PBY is one of the last flying “Cats” and is in “factory fresh condition” according to Win Stites, a founder of the PBY Memorial Foundation in Oak Harbor.

The Catalina is owned by Bud Rude of Deer Park, Wash. He has piloted PBYs and a wide variety of aircraft in his lifetime. This particular Catalina has logged an incredible record in military and private operations, and is currently employed as a fire fighter, scooping up water from nearby lakes and dropping its 1,700-gallon “water bomb” on its enemy – the forest fire.

“The visiting aircraft is truly a living, flying piece of history,” Stites said. “The timing of the Catalina fly-in couldn’t be better as it coincides with the 67th anniversary of NAS Whidbey Island’s commissioning on Sept. 21, 1942.”

PBY Catalinas were developed in the mid 1930s and produced until 1945 for a total of 3,272 planes; more than any other Navy seaplane. They were recognized for their versatility. Accomplishments included protecting convoys on the Atlantic, spotting the Battleship Bismarck, locating the Japanese fleet on the way to Midway on June 1942 and rescuing hundreds of shipwrecked seamen and downed aviators during the dark days of WWII.

The PBY-6A was the last model produced by Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego. Modifications to convert the PBY-6A from a combat seaplane to peacetime firefighting machine, have allowed it to continue to honorably serve national and state forestry agencies in the work of saving lives, trees and homes.

The public is invited to attend this historic event. Once the plane has landed, it will be towed up the ramp and tied down near the old seaplane hangar, known today as the Navy Exchange, where it will remain for a few days.

The event, made possible with the help of the City of Oak Harbor and the Navy, is sponsored by the PBY Memorial Foundation. Their offices and aviation historical displays are headquartered at building 12 on the Seaplane Base. The PBY Memorial Foundation’s goal is to have a PBY Catalina permanently on display to preserve the legacy of the air station and all who have flown this aircraft.

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