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The National Park Service Announces Location of Submerged PBY Catalina Aircraft for Technical Divers to Explore and Enjoy 10-07

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Date: February 15, 2007
Contact: Roxanne Dey, 702.293.8947

The National Park Service (NPS) announces the location of a submerged PBYCatalina flying boat that crashed into Lake Mead in 1949. On October 24, 1949, the Navy PBY-5A Catalina flying boat, converted for civilian use by the Charles Babb Company of Los Angeles, took off from the Boulder City Airport for a test flight. The aircraft was attempting a water landing in the Boulder Basin area of Lake Mead. Unfortunately, the landing gear was still down. The landing gear hit the water and the plane flipped and burned.

The occupants of the aircraft were pilot Russell Rogers, mechanic Charmen Correa, and Clarence Masters, all from Southern California. Boulder City Airport Operator Ted Swift and his associate George Davis were invited to join the group on the test flight. Swift and Masters were thrown clear of the plane; however they never regained consciousness and later died at the hospital. George Davis, the only member of the group that was strapped in his seat, survived the crash but did have a broken leg, cuts and bruises. Rogers and Correa went down with the plane.

Body recovery operations were conducted shortly after the crash by John True of Las Vegas. At this time, NPS researchers are unable to confirm if he was able to retrieve the bodies before his contract with the Babb Company expired.

Superintendent Bill Dickinson said, "The NPS is pleased to offer this new recreational opportunity to the dive community and hopes it will join with us in preserving this site as we found it so that divers in the future can continue to enjoy this unique piece of our nation’s history."

PBY Catalinawas the United States Navy designation for an American and Canadian-built flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s. PB stands for Patrol Bomber, with Y being Consolidated Aircraft’s manufacturer identification. When used by the military, it could be equipped with depth charges, bombs, torpedoes, and .50 caliber machine guns and was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBY Catalina Aircraft were used in every major theatre of WWII and achieved notable successes in reconnaissance and patrol bomber missions in the South Pacific. All weaponry was removed from this aircraft when it was converted for civilian use by the Babb Company.

The plane rests in two major sections at the bottom of Lake Mead. The area is parallel to the Boulder Beach section of the Boulder Basin. The depth of the aircraft is about 190 feet. At this depth, the aircraft is only accessible to qualified technical divers. The National Park Service accepts no responsibility for divers and has limited technical recovery capabilities. Dive at your own risk and within your abilities. Finally, since the plane is an archeological site, removing any material or items from the site is prohibited by federal law.

Did You Know?

Jimbilnan Wilderness - taken by Brian Beffort

"In a country where nature has been so lavish and where we have been so spendthrift of indigenous beauty, to set aside a few rivers in their natural state should be considered an obligation." -- Senator Frank Church