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Thread: Seeking info on Catalina AJ155

  1. #11
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    Rob and David:
    Slightly off the original topic but hopefully of interest. Per RAF Ferry Command pilot Arthur Sims:
    Most of my flights were fairly routine except for the delivery of Mosquitos. To enable them to be flown across that Atlantic they were given special bomb bay tanks. This was a sort of Ďtied oní affair and modifications sometimes caused things to go wrong with the fuel system. I clearly recall one flight with a Mosquito when petrol was swishing about in the fuselage by
    the time we got to Prestwick. Some pilots refused to fly Mosquitos. They were a good aircraft but the modifications required for the transatlantic flights gave rise to serious problems.
    Regards:
    Robert

  2. #12
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    Robert, it's interesting to learn about the Mosquito ferry flights. The Mossies in question were presumably those made in the de Havilland plant at Toronto. As it was a full-fledged factory, you'd think they could have provided tanks that would not leak.

    Thanks,

    Rob

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    Rob:
    Yes that would be them. Sim's last delivery was KA970. Seventy-five miles out of Prestwick the pneumatic bottle in the rear fuselage blew out after the regulator valve froze, creating a seven-by-two-foot hole in the rear fuselage and sucking out the crews' luggage. They made Prestwick and belly landed -- Sims resigned shortly afterwards.
    Sources: 'Ocean Bridge', 'Mosquito', and Sims' aircrew assignment card
    Regards:
    Robert

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    David,

    Thanks for the very interesting information. AJ155 (aka QL-A) flew a number of operational missions from Sullom Voe in February 1942 (and maybe in January too), so Iím sure the ferry tanks were removed after it arrived in the UK from Bermuda. Birchall claimed that QL-A arrived in Ceylon equipped with ferry tanks, in which case they must have been re-installed before it headed for Ceylon. As Terry notes, the Pembroke Dock to Gibraltar and Gibraltar to Cairo legs were almost 16 hours long, so itís plausible that it was deemed prudent to add them. And since QL-Aís 4 April mission was flown less than 48 hours after it arrived at Koggala, maybe there had simply been no time to remove the ferry tanks. The other thing is that Birchall repeatedly explained postwar that the plan was for QL-A to remain airborne for 24 hours, so that he could land it on Koggala Lake after dawn on 5 April, since he had never landed there in the dark before, and no one seems to have contradicted this. Would it have been possible for QL-A to have remained airborne for 24 hours without ferry tanks?


    Thanks,

    Rob

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    Rob, don't remember the source, but I have heard this "stay aloft through the night" story before for the 413 Squadron aircraft on their arrival in the Indian Ocean. Doesn't take 24 hours endurance though, only 12 hours or even less.

    Edit: I think this was from "Canadian Flying Operations in South East Asia 1941-1945" by T.W. Melnyk, Directorate of Defence, 1980. I'll have a dig through in the morning.
    Last edited by Bill Walker; 14th November 2010 at 03:39.

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    Bill, regarding your comment that "Doesn't take 24 hours endurance though, only 12 hours or even less.", Birchall left from Koggala at about dawn on 4 April and was expected to remain on station 360 miles from shore until last light, or close to it. If he was not to alight in the dark, then he had to stay aloft until dawn on 5 April, about 24 hours.


    Rob

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    Hi Bill,

    Melnyk's "Canadian Flying Operations in South East Asia 1941-1945" was published in 1976 by the Directorate of History at the Department of National Defence, and you're right that it does refer to this, on page 28:

    "Birchall ... was tasked to do a crossover patrol, regularly covering an area 200 miles by 50 miles in order to identify all shipping and establish their course. The patrol was uneventful until near the end of the day when Birchall decided to do one more circuit in order to take advantage of the newly risen moon to get a good astro fix of his position. The crew was in no hurry to return for they could not land until the next morning because they had not had time to practice night landings in the restricted landing area at Koggala."

    The following is from "A History of 413 Squadron", by Dennis Baker:

    "The lake at Koggala base had only two approaches, and night landings over the tall palm trees surrounding the water were exceedingly tricky. Normally, a pilot would have familiarized himself with the landing areas before leaving to carry out an operational night landing. The station commander [W/C George Butler] knew this but, owing to the urgency of the situation, he asked S/L Birchall to accept the mission.

    "Birchall's Catalina possessed overload fuel tanks that allowed the aircraft to remain airborne for up to thirty-two hours. The station commander's plan had Birchall take off from the unfamiliar lake, do the patrol, and then remain airborne until daylight, which eliminated the need for a night landing. Birchall agreed."

    In a rather long 1987 speech in Calgary quoted in "Burma Liberators: RCAF in SEAC", Birchall himself commented that:

    "We had kept our long range tanks used on the overseas ferry from Bermuda to England and hence we could stay airborne for 32 hours. Our normal patrol out of the Shetlands was 24 hours." [I have my doubts about this latter statement and will check the 413 Sqn ORB.]

    "We would leave early in the morning and be out all day. We would come back to Ceylon during the night and put in time until daylight when we would land. This we could do with our long range tanks."

    So, there are a number of sources saying that QL-A had ferry tanks when it was shot down, and the fact that the aircraft was to stay aloft for 24 hours supports these assertions, but I understand that the flight engineer, Brian Catlin, denies that it had ferry tanks at the time.

    I am told that Catlin has also asserted that at the time it was shot down QL-A was carrying bombs, either as well as depth charges or instead of depth charges. I have been dubious about this but I now note that, according to a 222 Group report, the Blenheims from 11 Squadron which took off from Colomboís racecourse to attack the Japanese task force were carrying mixed loads of 250 lb. and 500 lb. AS (anti-submarine) and SAP bombs. Evidently there was a stock of AS bombs on Ceylon at the time, so if there was a shortage of aerial depth charges perhaps 222 Group's Catalinas carried AS bombs at the time and not depth charges. Would anyone know about this?

    Thanks,

    Rob

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    Further to my last post, Birchall's statement that "Our normal patrol out of the Shetlands was 24 hours" does not seem to be accurate, as least not for February 1942. According to 413 Squdaron's ORB for February, the longest mission that month lasted 15 hours and 15 minutes. It was flown on 14 February by QL-G, which was apparently Birchall's normal aircraft until he took QL-A to Ceylon. QL-A was airborne for 15 hours and 11 minutes on 16 February, and this appears to have been its longest flight of the month. This would seem to support my assumption that ferry tanks were not carried during the operational missions flown from Sullom Voe by 413 Squadron.



    Rob

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    Rob,
    I may have slightly understated the time taken to fly from San Francisco to Pearl Harbour by PBY - it may have avaeraged about 19 hours from memory, and at take off the fuel load was supposed to be 2,080 US gallons, with trip to Hawaii made at 8,000 feet. Typically on arrival at Pearl the aircraft's tanks would still contain some 450 to 500 gallons. It was also noted in March 1944 after the first delivery of Canadian-built PB2B-1 from San Francisco to Pearl that "A great deal of trouble experienced with leaking internal long range fuel tanks, three of the four PB2Bs being affected. These tanks were being removed at Kaneohe owing to high danger factor. External tanks are now being fitted to Catalinas and it is suggested that, if possible, RNZAF arrange to have have its aircraft so fitted for ferrying."
    David D

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    Rob,
    For long-range ferrying or for maximum endurance on patrol, Catalinas were cleared for take off at about 35,000 pounds. Naturally take off run could be very extended (and often nerve-wracking!)
    David D

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