EUGENE, Ore -- A crowd of people gathered at Atlantic Aviation at the Eugene Airport on Saturday morning to welcome home a working piece of history that helped the Allies win WWII.
Built in 1943, the Princess of the Stars is a PBY-5A Catalina that sunk a German submarine during the war. The plane has been used in films and has fought wildfires. Stuart Barr bought the plane after his grandson saw it in France. They plan to build a hanger for it on the north end of the airport and share it with the public. Barr said he wants the plane to serve as a reminder for what we fought for.
"This aircraft is kind of a victory symbol of the rights winning out over tyranny," Barr said.
Coy Pfaff, Barr's grandson, was part of the crew that helped fly the plane over from France. He said it took over two weeks to make the trip and they made a number of stops including the Great Lakes where they landed the seaplane on the water.
"It's like a sailboat, you have no power controls no autopilot," Pfaff said. "You have such large control surfaces that with the slightest breeze the plane want's to pitch and roll."
Pfaff said they plan to take the Princess of the Stars to airshows in Washington and Canada this August. He hopes it inspires the next generation of pilots.
"This is something that gets to fly, you get to walk around inside of it, you get to fly on it, that's how you really appreciate the history," Pfaff said.
For 98-year-old Ehrman Giustina, the sound of the plane's engines brings back memories. The retired Navy Captain from Eugene flew one just like it during WWII where he patrolled the eastern seaboard and did search and rescue operations in the south Pacific. With the help of the plane's crew, Giustina was able to climb into the cockpit for the first time since 1945.
"Get in the left seat, look at the controls and know that I could do with it as I did before," Giustina said.
Barr said they also plan to use the plane on Scuba diving expeditions in Mexico in areas where people have never dived before.