Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1950 'Landseaire' Air-Yacht

From the files of LIFE magazine's online material comes this magnificent glimpse into an aspirational travel opportunity from a different era.

According to J Baugher's website, this was Consolidated PBY (Catalina) 34045:
(c/n 1599) converted to luxury LANDSEAIRE flying yacht, registered as N69043. Later to Brazil as PP-AXX. Lost in landing crash near Ubatuba, State of Sao Paulo Jul 5, 1953. By that time, it was registered PT-APK.
The photos were taken around Feburary 1950 by LIFE photographer Loomis Dean. As we can see here, although there were no structural changes, apart from enabling a shallow dinghy to be carried under the starboard wing...

... the aircraft was very well fitted out, with bunks in the rear fuselage...

... a shower (demonstrated by a lovely young lady in the photos here)..., for the Tommy Dorsey broadcasts, cocktail cabinet...

...and galley ("How d'you want your eggs?", say the girls).

While one might expect them to be doing the cooking, you might not expect the men to be doing the sewing!

It wasn't all beer and skittles, and sometimes someone had to sew the aeroplane back together.

But then there were cocktails and sherries, and the chance to telephone the pilot to push on the stick to get your girlfriend's drink up her nose! Oh how we laughed.

Until she decided to chill our drinks with the fire extinguisher. Ah, the era of the brand new polka dot Bikini, invented in 1946. Very daring.

Hello Gidget! What's that? You don't want to die of cancer from passive smoking? Mommy's busy cheating at poker, dahling.

... Just have another cocktail! Of course we need a cocktail glass shelf in the viewarama window.

But seriously folks...

Not only is it a fascinating insight to a one-off aeroplane, it's a great little piece of social history, and with the carefully shot large format black and white photos, of great compositional interest as well.

The names and details of the various subjects and the story of their voyage hasn't come down to us via the LIFE photo website, but in a way it's more fun imagining the story to fit the pictures. There's twelve pages of them, starting here.

EDIT: Update here.

(Photos Credited & Copyright LIFE archive.)


  1. What a great collection of photos. Nothing beats the float planes for fun.

    My first thought after looking quickly through the pictures was that I hoped that the photographer was able to retire after this shoot because there seems no way to top that assignment. Then, I noted in the Life site presentation that the photog was Loomis Dean whose whole career was made up of such opportunities.

  2. So glad I discovered your wonderful blog, thanks to Chris Taylor's post

    (But your refusal to post contact info is frustrating to those of us who love the social web!

    But social or not, your blog is a great find! Keep up the good work.


  3. G'day Dan,
    Thanks for the feedback, and I'm delighted to find your and Chris' blogs - great stuff you've got there.

    My contact details are on the blog, but I've made them more obvious - it's linked under 'Contact!' in the section marked 'About me' at the top right.

    Looking forward to sharing more complimentary posting on our blogs from the era of the flying boats and airships.


  4. William R. Warren, Jr.August 30, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    A friend mentioned this evening that on his "bucket list" was a chance to fly in a PBY, and I remembered seeing these photos from sometime around 1960 (the plane apparently crashed a few months before I was born in 1953, so it had to be a retrospective of favorites from Life when I was old enough to appreciate airplanes, but I was probably in single-digits) and I remember wanting one. Doing a search and finding this treasure-trove of photos has not only made MY day, and my friend's, but an astronaut friend of mine who loves old airplanes. Thank you for the photos, the links, and caring enough to preserve and pass along antique pix to antiques like me! All the best, always, William R. Warren, Jr.