We came across the wreck of a 1930s World War II Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina United States Navy seaplane marooned on the Red Sea coast near the cape of Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed in the northwest province of Tabuk.
The plane was bought from the US Navy by Thomas W. Kendall, a 44-year-old businessman. After purchasing three models, Kendall hired noted Los Angeles interior designer George Erb to convert the warplanes into a trio of flying and floating luxury yachts. All three could sleep fourteen people, thanks to the covered foam rubber sofas that converted into beds, a full galley, a lavatory, and even a dining room with a table for eight. So luxurious was the finishing and accommodation aboard that once he returned from the intended trip, Kendall planned on creating a business in converting and leasing out similar planes.
In the spring of 1960, Mr. Kendall took a pleasure trip worldwide with his wife and children, his secretary, and her son. On 22 March 1960, they left Luxor and landed at a rustic beach. They set up camp for the night, and as the wind picked up, they ate and went to bed – unaware of what was to face them the next day.
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 moved it about 800 meters.
According to Kendall’s article, the barrage of gunfire lasted around 30 minutes, with the plane estimated to have withstood around 300 shots. The fuel tanks were perforated, and 4000 liters of fuel poured from the holes, but miraculously the aircraft did not catch fire.
Luckily neither Kendall, his family, nor any others were injured – the same could not be said for the Catalina, which suffered extensive damage rendering it unfit for flying. The sea was only about 1.5 meters deep, and all aboard managed to leave the plane and reach the shore. On the beach, they were captured by a group of Bedouins connected to the Saudi Arabian army. They were taken to Jeddah, interrogated, and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador.
On the road from Wadi Disah
Wreck & Wreck
Lonely Catalina Seaplane
Parking location: 28.090579N 34.609818E (🚻 – 07:00-19:00)