A beautifully restored piece of West Coast history shone in front of fascinated fans at Long Beach Airport over the weekend.
Catalina Preservation Society president Jim Vissers flew a WWII era Catalina, that served out of the local airport in the 1940’s, over Bamfield, Ucluelet and Tofino on Friday afternoon before landing for locals to tour the aircraft and learn about its time on the West Coast.
“There’s only about 10 in the world left that are flyable and this is one of them,” Vissers told the Westerly at the airport on Saturday. “The flight up here from Victoria was spectacular. The weather gods were with us…It was a beautiful, picturesque flying platform for us.”
After the war, some Catalinas were converted into water bombers, which is how Vissers was introduced to the aircraft as he flew Catalinas for roughly 35 years, putting in over 800 hours as a water bomber pilot.
“I’ve been attached to them since day one. I didn’t think it would last this long, but it’s been a great courtship,” he said. “It’s elegant. It doesn’t move fast. You’ve got to think a little bit ahead of it, but it’s graceful in the air if you just take your time. It’s not a jet fighter by any means.”
He added the Catalina he flew into Long Beach served the West Coast after it replaced the ‘Bomber Trail’s’ Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 that remains where it crashed near Radar Hill around 1945.
“It was here 75 years ago, the same time the airport opened up. So, it’s got a good lineage and good history here on the West Coast,” he said.
Tofino local Aaron Rodgers was thrilled with the opportunity to check out the aircraft with his daughters Tilly and Sophia.
“I have a real love for old planes and this is one of the oldest WWII planes, that’s still flying, that I’d have a chance to get in and I wanted to share it with the girls,” he said. “It’s been a great day.”