Hulk to Showpiece...Classic Flyers Catalina

Hulk to Showpiece...Classic Flyers Catalina

The restored fuselage of a Catalina flying boat is one of the latest displays at the Classic Flyers NZ Aviation Museum at Mount Maunganui.

On the first day of August 2007 the hulk of a Catalina PBY rolled through the gates at Classic Flyers, Tauranga Airport to begin a restoration that has progressed to become an elevated showpiece inside the Classic Flyers hanger.

The Catalina hull was originally imported in the year 2000, as a source for spares by the Catalina Group of NZ, and stripped of items for possible future use in the Group’s operational Canso Catalina.  After this, the hull became a hulk, resting in the long grass at Ardmore for more than six years.

An enthusiastic volunteer team has devoted hundreds of hours to bring the exterior of the aircraft hull to showpiece standard - adopting U.S. Navy World War II colours that stand out in the museum interior.

The tail section, wings and engines won’t be recreated, as a complete aircraft of Catalina size wouldn’t fit into the museum!

Solid work has also gone into restoring the hull interior; a process that will be completed when an access stairway is installed at the rear of the hull.

This will eventually allow public access into what will accurately depict an operational maritime patrol aircraft from the World War II Pacific Theatre.

The complete hull was raised onto its stand on Saturday, March 7, another milestone in the rapid expansion of the Classic Flyers NZ.Com complex at Tauranga Airport.

To view the museum’s other aircraft and out about upcoming events, visit (

(Footnote: The Catalina PBY was the most successful flying boat ever produced, first flown in March 1935).

(Story & photos by Glenn Johnston, Classic Flyers)

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