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Past Meeting

Paul Catanach - "They Stole my Dog" - Tales from a Bush Pilot

We opened the autumn talk season with a hugely entertaining evening.

Paul Catanach is currently a serious commercial UK pilot with a great sense of humour and a superb story to tell about his earlier life and adventures as a bush pilot in Australia. He also came along with some Australian native artefacts to help illustrate the talk, people and places he has encountered - for us a real insight into antipodean sense of humour.

Paul Catanach

Paul Catanach Paul Catanach was raised by monkeys following the disappearance of his parents aircraft in the Amazon jungle. At the age of 12, while teaching the monkeys white water rafting, he was accidentally washed downstream and out to sea. After a month he was picked up by the crew of a passing sardine trawler.

Sold to a band of wandering troubadours he learned the Polynesian bagpipes to Olympic standard. By his mid-teens he held the world endurance record for playing underwater in both the deep and shallow ends. Controversy followed the third defence of his title when it was alleged that he had breached the "No running/bombing/diving/spitting/petting" rules. Eschewing the glamour of the Olympic circuit in 1991 he sold his medals and used the money to obtain a PPL at Clacton Aero Club. Bitten by the flying bug he pawned the deeds of the banana plantation given to him by his adoptive father King Louie and bribed his way through a Commercial Pilot course at Coolangatta in Queensland.

Our speaker in action in PNG? Accounts vary but at some point during his training there were several unexplained fires, a flooding and a mysteriously high number of unwanted pizzas delivered to the least popular instructor's office. Bedazzled by his ability to bluff his way through exams and flight tests the school offered Paul a position teaching students both flying and theory to PPL and CPL standard. After two years of this, with several reminders from his more inept students of his own mortality, he moved from the glitzy Gold Coast to remote Darwin in the Northern Territory where he gained his first taste of the heady life of a Commercial Pilot with the world's biggest paper round. Overnight a Cessna 210-ful of the worst newspaper ever produced was hauled 730nm southbound to Alice Springs via Katherine and Tennant Creek after which, over the next two days, sacks, bags, boxes, envelopes, spare car parts and gold bullion in various quantities were thrown aboard the crusty wreck of an aircraft (which if ever ramp checked would be condemned) and hauled north and eastward into Arnhem Land, the Gulf of Carpentaria and eventually back to Darwin.

Following an apprenticeship of over 1000 hours in this accumulation of corroded rivets, panels and worn out parts flying in close formation career advancement took the form of a twin-engined Cessna 402. Just as dilapidated as the 210 but with double the potential for engine failure. Two more years of ferrying n'er-do-wells, miscreants, outlaws, charlatans and mountebanks (not to mention a fair few officers of the law and customs officers) was interrupted by an offer to sit at the helm of a large orange 737 back in Blighty which, although accepted, was thwarted by the archaic CAA who insisted that his Australian ATPL was not good enough for northern climes (presumably because physics differ either side of the equator). It took a year to convert his licence by which time Stelios Haji-Iannou was heard to mutter "Paul who?" and the job offer evaporated. Down to his last million Vietnamese Dong he accepted a position flying a bizjet until something "proper" came along. That was sixteen years ago and you couldn't get him out if you told him pole dancers had set up a training room next door and were giving out free booze.

For fun Paul flies an Isaacs Fury tastefully bedecked in the colours of the Persian Air Force circa 1944. He also has a some-time regular column in Flyer magazine where he rambles on about his time as a bush pilot. Most of the stories are probably lies.
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