CAF PBY Catalina Restoration Update – Fall 2021

In late October, the team took the opportunity during warm weather to re-rig the tent structure around the fuselage. This will allow them to continue working on the aircraft during all but the coldest of winter days in Superior, Wisconsin. (image via CAF Lake Superior Squadron)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


As an update to our April 2021 progress report regarding the restoration of Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina BuNo.64097 within the Commemorative Air Force Lake Superior Squadron’s hangar at Superior Bong Airport in Superior, Wisconsin, we bring further news describing what has taken place through the end of October this year…


April 2021:

In April, the Squadron worked hard to successfully wrap up the last tricky spots on the fuselage’s right side. They continued to work on the top of Station 2, but were awaiting the arrival of some extrusion material to form the new stringers for this section. As readers may recall from a previous report, since their hangar is bereft of main doors, the unit had to partially shroud the PBY’s fuselage in a home-made tent in order to permit work on the PBY during the harsh winter months. This setup performed admirably, allowing the team to advance the restoration on all but the one coldest day of the year. Thankfully, by April, it was finally warm enough to remove the tenting, which provided easier access for all.

The jury-rigged tenting structure around the PBY’s forward fuselage allowed work to continue on the aircraft during the harsh winter months in Superior, Wisconsin. This was made necessary due to the absence of hangar doors on the CAF’s restoration facility! (image via CAF Lake Superior Squadron)

May 2021:

In May, the team was still awaiting some material to begin the restoration’s next phase. This included the afore-mentioned extrusions as well as a new jack pad, which AirCorps Aviation was building for them. Once these components arrived, the team planned to continue their work on the fuselage section above Stations 2 and 4.

Working on the roof section between Stations 2 and 4. (image via CAF Lake Superior Squadron)

June 2021:

The PBY team finally received the long-awaited new extrusion material and got to work straight away on rebuilding the fuselage between Stations 2 and 4, as well as the structure above the pilot/co-pilot and navigator sections. The goal was to complete this section by the end of July. Next up, they planned to reposition the Catalina, placing it on jacks to allow the removal and rebuild of the main landing gear. Once that was complete, the team then expected to move on to the nose. Part of this work included the fabrication and installation of the nose turret assembly!

August 2021:

By August, the Squadron’s volunteers had installed the replacement stringers on the PBY’s upper fuselage. They had also positioned the plane on jack pads, which served two purposes; it allowed for a fuselage symmetry check and also prepared the way for the restoration’s next phase.

Gary worked hard to install the fabric covering on another section of trailing edge, leaving only one further section to complete. The team also began the process of reattaching skin to the repaired stringers just above Stations 2 and 4; Rich, Dan, and many of the volunteers worked hard to complete  this endeavor. Once these skin sections were installed, the team intended to remove and disassemble the landing gear for inspection/refurbishment. With the wheels and associated hardware out of their respective recesses, the team could begin to clean, inspect, and repair the fuselage wheel well section as well. While this was happening, the fabrication team expected to begin addressing the nose section, with work scheduled throughout upcoming winter.

October 2021:

Work continued above Stations 2 and 4, with teams fabricating replacements for the window panels above the cockpit. The landing gear had been completely removed by this point, and was undergoing packaging for shipment to AirCorps Aviation’s main facility in Bemidji, Minnesota. AirCorps will inspect and repackage the gear over the upcoming winter, expecting to complete the work in time to allow its reinstallation in 2022. During the last weekend of October, the team began tenting the PBY’s front fuselage to prepare it for winter. Barring extreme weather, they expect to work on the aircraft every weekend through the winter.

A nice view of the PBY’s now-empty main gear bay. (image via CAF Lake Superior Squadron)
Another view of the PBY’s now-empty main gear bay. (image via CAF Lake Superior Squadron)

And that’s all so far for the 2021 progress report. We look forwards to learning more about The CAF’s endeavors to rebuild this storied aircraft in the coming months!

To support the unit and its restoration of their PBY Catalina, please click HERE.



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