Navy mechanics volunteer to restore PBY Catalina engine
How did an old PBY Catalina engine found in Alabama end up at the Fleet Readiness Center Northwest Support Equipment
Division? It came by way of the PBY Memorial Foundation in Oak Harbor.
“Alan Hodgkins, a local aircraft restorer, had found the engine on eBay for us back in October 2006,” said Win Stites, president
of the foundation. “It was located in Alabama and owned by a man and wife who run a motorcycle business.”
The foundation paid $1,100 for the cutaway engine.
The engine had been on public display since April 2007 at the PBY Memorial Foundation’s office at the old downtown Oak
Harbor gas station on Pioneer Way until the doors closed in December 2007 because of planned development of the site.
Stites described the cutaway training aid as a Pratt and Whitney 1830-92 engine, saying it was probably used by the Naval
Air Technical Training Center Memphis to teach new Navy mechanics during WWII.
In anticipation of the PBY Memorial Foundation re-opening its historical display at a new location later this summer on the
Seaplane Base, the engine is getting a “makeover” by FRC Navy volunteers.
“It was a pile of rust when we got it,” said Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS) 2nd Class Alberto Leonardomercedes.
AS1 Samnang Loeum, AS2 Terry Carmeans, AS2 Michael Harless and Leonardomercedes have been working on the engine
since last November as time permits. “We have done lots of sanding, rust removal, corrosion control, priming and painting,”
said Leonardomercedes. Even the roll-away stand it sits on will be sanded, primed and repainted.
These Sailors are doing their part to preserve air station history. “It is gratifying to see the interest today’s Sailors have in WWII
aviation history,” said Stites. “I truly feel that this history will be preserved long after our generation is gone as exemplified by
the dedication of these Sailors.”
The first Patrol Bomber Consolidated Aircraft landed at the Seaplane Base in December 1942. PBY aircrews trained here to fly
in the Aleutian Islands campaign, part of Alaska, during World War II. A small Japanese force had occupied the islands to prevent
possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Likewise, the U.S. feared the islands would be used as Japanese bases to launch
aerial assaults along the West Coast.
Stites, himself a VP-91 PBY veteran, once flew from Crescent Harbor in 1945. Having NAS Whidbey’s Sailors get involved in the PBY
Catalina makes him proud.
“I feel that NAS Whidbey’s aviation history is in good hands,” said Stites. “With this kind of involvement by our current Navy, this
historical memorial can be perpetually maintained and some day gain national recognition.”
© 2008 Sound Publishing, Inc.