05 May 2021

Catalina Seaplane Wreckage - Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed

The wreckage of a restored Consolidated PBY-5A Catolina United States Navy seaplane, built in San Diego, California in the 1930’s can be found on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, near Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed. The plane was bought from the US Navy by Thomas Kendall, a retired businessman, who converted it to a luxury flying yacht. In the spring of 1960 Mr Kendall took a pleasure trip around the world with his wife and children together with his secretary and her son. On the 22 March 1960 they landed at the Strait of Tirana and anchored the aircraft a short distance from the shore to spend the night there. They heard someone shouting but did not pay any attention and subsequently in the afternoon of the following day, they were attacked with machine guns and automatic firearms from a headland nearby as they did not have relevant permits and were mistaken for Israeli commandos. Mr Kendal tried to start the Catalina but only managed to move it about 800 metres, where it ran aground on a coral reef. The firing lasted 30 to 40 minutes and more than 300 shots hit the aircraft. The fuel tanks were perforated, and 4000 litres of fuel poured from the holes but miraculously the aircraft did not catch fire. The sea was only about 1.5 metres deep and all aboard managed to leave the aircraft and reach the shore. On the beach they were captured by a group of Bedouins attached to the Saudi Arabian army and were taken to Jeddah, interrogated and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador.