The Miss Macao Affair
The Miss Macao affair was the first skyjack carried out by a gang for criminal gain. (16)
The Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, California designed the Catalina as a pure flying boat for the US Navy in the early thirties.
However, with the advent of World War 11 the Canadian Government, aware of the great work it did in its vast Northwest, built an amphibious version under licence and named it Canso, a name that is not well known except in Canada.The Catalina proved a robust plane with remarkable endurance, which allowed QANTAS to maintain the air route between Koggala, Ceylon and Perth in Western Australia during the dark days of World War 11. Between July 1943 and July 1945 QANTAS Catalinas made 271 crossings. The average time in the air was 27 hours with the longest of these 31 hours 51 minutes. QANTAS presented each passenger with a handsome certificate titled Secret Order of the Double Sunrise – proof of being airborne in excess of 24 hours. Those who wrestled with this hybrid knew it as the PBY or Pigboat. In her new civilian role the airline added an icebox for cold drinks – no other catering was necessary. So, for an outlay of about $HK 50,000 Cathay Pacific had an asset that was valued at $HK 173,400 when the Company restructured just six months later. Dubbed the Miss Macao she made her inaugural flight to Macau on 9 April 1948 under charter to the Macao Air Transport Company (MATCO). Some blessed it, many cursed it, and hundreds died in it – including my younger brother. Roy Farrell and Syd de Kantzow bought their Catalina in September 1947 from the USAAF Federal Liquidation Commission in the Philippines. They got a steal for 6,000 pesos – about $HK 12,000, and safely negotiated the 600 miles of restless sea that separates the Philippine Island of Luzon from Mainland China. The then unregistered plane put down at Kai Tak during the late morning of 2 October 1947, and almost before the propellers stopped turning an army of engineering minions descended on her. With indecent haste they commenced to strip her, and with the remarkable engineering efficiency that Cathay Pacific commanded in those days, the passenger conversion was completed by late November.
On 5 December she entered service with the registration VR-HDT. She seated 23 passengers and with just 993 hours on the clock she was a lovely and regal lady in youthful bloom. On the 30 June 1948 I found my self crewed with Captain Dale Cramer, F/E Jack Williams, and R/O Alex Stewart. This was a Gold Charter from Hong Kong to Batavia via Macao. The next day we returned to Saigon where we stayed the night while the bank loaded the cargo of gold boxes.
On the 2 July Captain Cramer gave me the final sector from Macao to Kai Tak. My water take-off had an eminently forgettable flavour but my Kai Tak landing redeemed me as I greased her on! My skipper breathed a sigh of relief, the flight engineer grunted in a non-committal way and the radio officer broke into spontaneous applause. Obviously, the sparks had a more generous nature than the flight spanner. I remember that sector with clarity for it was the last time I saw Dale Cramer – a fine American gentleman.
Miss Macao had logged a total of 1,596 hours when, on 16t July 1948, she became a muddied, twisted heap of corroding metal and the tomb of innocent people. With this metamorphosis she entered history, having become the victim in the world’s first air piracy, an attempted skyjack that went miserably wrong.Read More