Derelict PBY-5 Catalina, Strait of Tiran

PBY-5A Catalina N5593V, abandoned at Ash Shaykh Humayd, near Aqaba, Saudi Arabia. From kendo1938's Flickr photostream.

This PBY-5A Catalina is one of 4,051 produced by Consolidated Aircraft (and its licensees) between 1936 and 1945.  According to David Legg’s 2001 book Consolidated PBY Catalina: The Peacetime Record, this aircraft (BuNo 48397) ended its US Navy service in August 1956, and was relegated to the surplus aircraft boneyard at NAS Litchfield Park.  It became one of a couple PBYs purchased by Mr. Thomas W. Kendall in 1956; and while this one ended up rotting on a foreign beach, Kendall’s other PBY was donated to the San Diego Air and Space Museum in 1986 by his family.

Mr. Kendall moved his surplus Navy craft to the civil aircraft registry, and refitted N5593V as a luxury transport; in 1959 Mr. Kendall and his family departed on an around-the-world tour.  Along the way the aircraft stopped at Croydon Airport (just south of London) to repair bow damage, making this Catalina historic in another sense.  Croydon was London’s major aerodrome from 1920 through 1952, and had hosted many famous pioneers of civil aviation through the decades.  N5593V became one of the last aircraft to depart (for nearby Gatwick) on Croydon’s last day of operations, September 30th, 1959.

In the spring of 1960 the Kendalls had made it to Arabia, and had been joined by a camera crew from Life magazine.  This is where things started to get interesting:

On 22 March the Catalina touched down at Ras Ash Shaykh Humayd on the headland dividing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba facing Tyran Island.  The aircraft was anchored close to the shore and the crew slept on board that night.  The following day, the family group were attacked from the headland by gun-toting Saudi Arabian Bedouins.  Although the family and camera crew made it back to the Catalina, the aircraft sustained damage from several hundred bullets and had to be abandoned.  The Kendalls and party were arrested and held a few days on suspicion of being Israelis.  N5593V was too badly damaged to be salvaged and remained at the site, where it is still a graffiti-covered desert landmark.

— Legg, David. (2001).  Consolidated PBY Catalina: The Peacetime Story.  Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press.  174-5.

There are plenty of photos of the PBY’s 2002 condition at kendo1938‘s Flickr set.  There’s another set of images on this Arabic site showing it in a rather more advanced state of decay, suffering significant structural failure.

And yes, it’s out there on Google Maps, too.

And in case anyone is wondering, yes, the Israeli Air Force’s 69th “Patishim” (Hammers) Squadron did operate PBY-5As in the early 1950s, although they were all retired by 1956.  As you can see by the following images, the IAF livery is rather significantly different from that of N5593V.

Israeli Air Force PBY-5A Catalina.  Note dark blue paint scheme and prominent Star of David roundel below cockpit.

Israeli Air Force PBY-5A Catalina. Note dark blue paint scheme and prominent Star of David roundel below and aft of cockpit.

N5593V in better days, at Croydon Aerodrome, 1959.  From Air Britain Photographic Images Collection.

N5593V in better days, at Croydon Aerodrome, 1959. From Air Britain Photographic Images Collection.

My understanding is that Mr. Kendall was not able to recover costs from the Saudi government or its dim Bedouin militia.

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