Catalina lowered. Image by Zan Wimberley



One of the most iconic objects in the Powerhouse collection, the Catalina flying boat Frigate Bird II will be presented in a new exhibition that tells its story launching on 6 October. A new perspective will be presented which will highlight the scale of the aircraft, and allow its impressive engineering to be examined up close.

In 1951, the Catalina undertook the first return flight from Australia to South America, piloted by Sir P G Taylor. The journey represented the first crossing of the South Pacific Ocean. Departing from Sydney’s Rose Bay, the aircraft made many stops including the Pacific Islands of Noumea, Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Mangareva, French Polynesia and Easter Island, before reaching Chile.

Taylor was a pioneer of early aviation in Australia, captaining several first ocean crossings alongside aviators Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm, the pilots who made the first flight across the Pacific Ocean in 1928. Taylor gained a heroic reputation after saving the lives of his crew on the failed Southern Cross flight from Australia to New Zealand in 1935.

The Catalina will feature in an exhibition of previously unseen collection objects and archival material documenting the pioneering flight from Australia to Chile.

The exhibition will include new acquisitions from the Taylor family, including a thermos flask which Taylor used to transfer oil to the failing engine on the doomed 1935 flight, a selection of photographic images from the flight, a navigation instrument set, a handcrafted photograph album presented to the crew in Chile, flags flown by the Catalina in Australia and Chile, and the remnants of a uniform cap destroyed by the aircraft’s propeller during wild conditions departing Easter Island on the outward journey.


The Catalina Activity Space allows visitors to get a birds-eye view of the Catalina. Families can access a booklet with activities that will allow them to explore and learn more about the Catalina and its journey across the Pacific.


Individuals: Free entry, no bookings required.

Schools and Groups: please follow this link to arrange your visit or submit a booking form. If you need further information please contact our bookings team on (02) 9217 0222.

Find more information here about the measures we’ve put in place to keep everyone safe.


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