PBY Catalina JX273

Heishavel Beag, Vatersay, Barra













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A U.S. PBY Catalina making a landing at sea.


pby catalina landing


Photo: [no date] taken by a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy. A U.S. federal government photo now in the  public domain.






Aircraft Type and Background


RAF Consolidated PBY* Catalina Mk IVB / JX273



* Designated 'Marks I, II, III, IV', etc. by the RAF rather than 'PBY-5A' etc.


(This aircraft was built by Boeing, Canada)


Type Nickname: "Cat"; "Mad Cat"; "Black Cat", and others.


Aircraft Acronym: P: Patrol; B: Bomber; Y: Consolidated manufacturer's ID.



First flown in the United States in March 1935, the PBY was intended as a long-range patrol aircraft. Originally equipped with two 850hp Pratt and Whitney engines, these were replaced in later versions with 1200hp Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines. The aircraft had a maximum speed of 179mph.


The PBY was not intended as a passenger aircraft. The purpose was patrol flights and long range patrols. The aircraft had the ability to take water landings.

RCAF versions of the Catalina were known as 'Cansos'. The were built by Consolidated, Boeing of Canada, and Canadian Vickers.



BELOW: A Canso flying boat.


Canadian Catalina known as Canso


Photo: © Canada's Air Force



The RAF first began using these flying boats in 1941, renaming the Consolidated PBY as the 'Catalina' - a name first used by Consolidated themselves for their commercial versions, and adopted later by the US Navy. According to the RAF, Coastal Command had 602 Catalinas (or 'Cats') at their disposal. (Higher number are cited elsewhere.) A number of Catalinas remain in civilian use today. (See The Catalina Society for a full list.)



BELOW: A U.S. Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina at anchor, preparing for take-off.


A USN PBY at anchor preparing for take-off


Photo : [no date] US Federal Government photo released to the public domain.



BELOW: A U.S. PBY gunner, with machine gun, mounting one of the two side gun blisters on the hull.


us pby gunner with machine gun about to enter gun blister on hull of aircraft


Photo : [no date] U.S. Federal Government photo released to the public domain.






Aircraft Accident Details


The Catalina featured here (JX273) was built by Boeing of Vancouver, Canada. Sometime after its delivery to the UK, this aircraft was assigned to 302 Flying Training Unit, then operating from RAF Oban (a flying boat base).

On the evening of the crash, the Catalina took off from Oban on the west coast of Scotland, fully loaded and with depth charges under each wing. The aircraft was on a night training exercise with a complement of nine persons, including the pilot and co-pilot.

The intended course was via Barra Head. However, the aircraft was flying well off-course, and was no longer above the sea, as the pilot believed. Realising the navigational error, the pilot endeavoured to gain height. However, when he had reached about 213m (700ft), the Catalina—which, by now, was over higher ground—crashed into the side of Heishavel Beag on Vatersay.






Aircraft Crew Casualties


Of the nine personnel on board, three were killed and the remaining six were injured. Those who died were:

  • Flt Sgt David Clyne, Captain

  • Sgt R. (Fred) Basset, Wireless OP-AG

  • Sgt Patrick Hine, Rigger (mechanic)-AG


Those injured were:


Sgt E. Kilshaw, 2nd Pilot

Sgt P. Lee, Navigator

Sgt G. Calder, Wireless Op / Mechanic-AG

Sgt Roy Beavis, Engineer

Sgt Ron Anstey, Wireless OP-AG

Sgt R. Whiting, Flight Mechanic


The survivors were taken by the Royal Navy to hospital in Oban.

Near the foot of the hillside, stands a new memorial to those who died and to those who survived. The plaque on this memorial pillar can be seen below. Photos of the memorial pillar are available also at South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.



BELOW: The memorial pillar and plaque to the crew of RAF Catalina JX273.


memorial pillar to crew of PBY JX273


Photo: © 2088 Steve White



BELOW: The names of those who perished in this accident and also of those who were injured but survived are listed on this memorial plaque.


enlargement of plaque on pillar


Photo: © 2088 Steve White






Memorial Photos (Graveside)


BELOW: The grave of Flt Sgt David Clyne, (Captain), one of those who died in this accident. (David Clyne was a pre-war international footballer.)


grave - flt sgt david clyne


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink



BELOW: Close-up view of inscription on headstone.


close up of inscription on headstone


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink






Crash Site Photos


BELOW: The memorial to the victims of this air accident stands close to the remaining wreckage.

Note the road in the background. This makes access to the site easy—although an air or ferry crossing from the mainland is involved.


some of the remaining wreckage piled close to the road


Photo: © 2008 Steve White





Photo Gallery


For additional crash site and wreckage photos please select


from the drop down Album Menu in the Photo Gallery.























Crash Date / Site



Accident Date: 12 May 1944


Accident Site:

Heishavel Beag

(Bhatarsaidh / Vatersay)


Region: Hebrides (Western Isles)

(Restricted ferry service)


Nearest town or village:

Bhatarsaidh (Vatersay),

S of Eilean Bharraidh (Isle of Barra).


Nearest large towns:

None on Barra / Vatersay. Nearest by ferry to Oban.


OS Grid Ref. N/A


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition: RAF recovery teams broke up the aircraft, removing the engines, electronic equipment, and armaments etc. from the site. However, some larger parts were left further down the hill, where they had been dragged by the recovery teams. These parts are still there today.




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: JX273


Operator: RAF (No 17 (Training) Group in Coastal Command / 302 Flying Training Unit)


Operating Base: RAF Oban  (X6ON); moorings on Sound of Kererra.


Base Location: Oban Bay, North Connel, Argyll and Bute, Scotland.


Current Airport Status: Operational Civil Airport;
National Air Traffic Services (NATS): Scottish Area Control Centre (SACC), Oceanic Area Control Centre (OACC), Military Control, & Engineering.


Current Airport Name: Glasgow (Prestwick) International Airport (EGPK)




Related Links



Accident Specific Link

Eddie's Photo Archive (Current photos of wreckage)


Museums with Connected Exhibits

Oban War and Peace Museum
(flying boat display)

South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum
(memorial stone photos)


Forums, Organisations, and Societies

A Salute to the PBY Catalina (some outstanding photos of this type.)

PBY Catalina International Association (Newsletter providing a detailed description of events)

Plane Sailing Catalina Operations (Bookings) Photos here

The Catalina Society (UK) (A full list of surviving Catalinas)

The Catalina History at The Catalina Society


RAF Link

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina at RAF Museum


Other Links

Barra Airport (Flybe operates flights between Glasgow and Benbecula)

Barra & Vatersay at Iniative at the Edge

Bhatarsaigh / Vatersay at Undiscovered Scotland

Consolidated Catalina at Century of Flight

Consolidated PBY Catalina at Warbird Alley



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