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Gulf of Aqaba, March 1960 – 28°05'27.02"N 34°36'30.93"E

Thomas W. Kendall, a wealthy Californian, purchases two surplus Consolidated PBY-5A Catalinasfrom the U.S. Navy and has them refitted as luxury flying yachts. He plans to fly around the world with his family and friends.

On 20 March, 1960, one of the two seaplanes – the N5593V– lands on the Strait of Tirana at the southern end of Saudia Arabia near the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. After anchoring the craft, everyone on board enjoys the crystal clear water and spends the starry night on the shores of the bay. The next day the peaceful isolation is shattered by machine gun fire. Mistaking the Kendall party for Israeli commandos, Bedouins are soon attacking their site.

Thomas Kendall, in a frantic attempt at escape, rushes everyone onto the Catalina – even managing to start the radial engines – but minutes later runs aground on a coral reef. After Kendall and others are injured in the hail of bullets, they surrender. All are captured and taken to Jeddah. After intensive negotiations between the U.S. Embassy and the Saudis, the U.S. ambassador eventually succeeds in securing the Kendalls' release.

The Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina is left behind. Today – as spectacular photos show – it still rests on that distant shore, no more than a shell.

A dramatic story with a happy ending that came at a high price. Thomas Kendall's second Catalina can be viewed in pristine condition at the Air Museum in San Diego/USA.