Welcome to D*Hub’s ‘Loves’ column. We’ve invited designers and design lovers to share their favourite object in the Powerhouse Museum Collection.
Janos Korban and Stefanie Flaubert are award winning Australian designers.
The Catalina flying boat ‘Frigate Bird II’, 1935 makes a huge impact in the old turbine hall at the Powerhouse Museum.
We love the catalina flying boat because It’s a great example of the aircraft of its era, still small enough to visibly demonstrate its mechanical functioning, but also with a great track record as the most successful long-range patrol flying boat of ww2.
There is something magical about an aircraft that has an anchor! Chitty chitty bang bang appeal. It looks like an albatross with the parasol wing above the body. And it was part of the move to metal in aircraft design. We love the way the wingtips fold down to become the wing floats for landing and take off.
The flying boat is a part of Sydney’s story, flying out of Rose Bay in peacetime to connect sydney to the south pacific and beyond. The catalina established the first air route across the pacific to south America in 1951. They flew via Noumea, Suva, Samoa, Aitutaki, Papeete, Mangareva, and Easter Island to Valparaiso in Chile.
They also flew to Lord Howe Island as a part of the Qantas Empire Airways stable. Stunningly graphic posters lured sydneysiders to the magical Lord Howe Island in the 50s 60s and 70s, and the catalinas and sunderland airplanes were firmly fixed as key parts of the romance of travel to stunning locations like this. Years later these posters worked on us too and we flew there in 2009.
These aircraft had a different and much more significant role in WW2. Especially the “Black Cat” Catalinas which, painted matt black, roamed the western Pacific from December 1942 finding Japanese ships by radar at night and rescuing stranded Allied service personnel from boats and dinghies. They dropped special ops behind enemy lines and were a part of the success story against uboats in the Atlantic. They were a great long haul reconnaissance aircraft.
The catalina makes us think of… the one for sale at Essendon airport in 1989 for $40k which we could not afford….and where we might have gone in it.
If we had a catalina flying boat? Well we’d have to island hop the old the pacific air route: we’d start at Rose Bay and fly to Noumea.. and then on to Suva. And then to Samoa. And then to Aitutaki….and then to Papeete… and then to Mangareva…and then to Valparaiso….