CatBird ETD History
A BIT OF HISTORY: 040413-N-5821W-002 Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Sicily (Apr. 13, 2004) "...Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, presents awards to Sailors in Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella's Executive Transport Department (ETD) hangar. The admiral was invited to participate in a ceremony to retire the department's VP-3A "Catbird" (BUNO 150496), which is the last of three VP-3s in service to the department since 1982. ETD, which provides airborne command and control communication services and VIP transportation, will receive a new C-20A Gulfstream III aircraft to replace the current plane. NAS Sigonella provides logistical support for Commander, Sixth Fleet and NATO forces in the Mediterranean area. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver. (RELEASED)..." Navy News Stand http://newshome.news.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=13317 [04MAR2005]
A BIT OF HISTORY: 040413-N-5821W-001 Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Sicily (Apr. 13, 2004) "...Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, addresses a crowd gathered in Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella's Executive Transport Department (ETD) hangar. Adm. Johnson was invited to participate in a ceremony to retire the department's VP-3A "Catbird" (BUNO 150496), which is the last of three VP-3s in service to the department since 1982. ETD, which provides airborne command and control communication services and VIP transportation, will receive a new C-20A Gulfstream III aircraft to replace the current plane. NAS Sigonella provides logistical support for Commander, Sixth Fleet and NATO forces in the Mediterranean area. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver. (RELEASED)..." Navy News Stand http://newshome.news.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=13316 [04MAR2005]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...I was a AD3 at NAF Naples, Italy from 1971-75. We had four C-131 and three were VIP planes (141020 and 140999 were two of the serial numbers). One was always in NSA Bahrain, Oman and two were in NAF Naples, Italy. We also had one used for cargo. I was in the AIMD doing QEC build-up and tear of the R-2800 engines and propellers. The enclosed three some pic April 1974 shows one of the catbirds that belly landed in NAF Naples, Italy because of loosing a main mount landing gear piston and wheels in rome and returned to home. The plane skidded on foam and was only slightly damaged. Some belly antenna and the large aluminum wing splice plate. The plane was air bag lifted and carted off to the italian af hangers shown in the back ground. We in the aimd built up overhauled engines and props for the plane and a NARF team removed and replaced the splice plate. I dont remember the serial number but it did fly again..." Contributed by Steve Marsilio email@example.com [25FEB2011]
Left to Right:
NAF Naples, Italy, C-131F 140999 (N8277Q) St. Maatrn Juliana Int'l Airport, C131F 140999 Monthan Davis AFB, 141020 C131F On Ramp and Convair C-131 Monthan-Davis AFB.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...I began copilot duty with the CATBIRD in 1963 when Jack McDonell (CAPT USN/ret) was the Flag Pilot. The CINC at that time was Admiral James S. Russell. I have no proof as to the removal of the Disney "CAT' from the tail of the aircraft. However, I did have an appreciation of Admiral Brown and Admiral Russell (from knowledge of both). Admiral Russell would have had the CAT removed and the Lion of Malta (AFSOUTH NATO LOGO) replace the "CAT." The CATBIRD had a fantastic enlisted crew--the best! LCDR Wally Coupe took over when I returned to the US and civilian life and I believe Wally's name is below the pilot's window on the C-131 in the Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, Florida..." Contributed by Captain Jack Kenny (Retired) firstname.lastname@example.org [24FEB2011]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...EXECUTIVE TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT (ETD) - "CATBIRD" History..." http://www.sicily.navy.mil/nassig/depts/etd/ [05MAY2003]
Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) was originally issued a R6D-1Z (BUNO 128433) sometime prior to 1958. This aircraft was transferred to VR-1 in 1958. OP-5 then assigned an R4Y-1 (C-131, BUNO 141020) as its replacement. Prior to being sent to Naples, the aircraft was sent to Southwest Aeromotive in Dallas Texas for a VIP configuration upgrade. The addition of plush seats, a head, stove, refrigerator etc., was so extensive that there were only sixteen passenger seats available. Although it was not in the same league as the R6D-1Z, it was a plush aircraft to ride around in.
Admiral C. R. Brown was assigned the post of Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe in 1958. A much belovedofficer, he acquired the nickname of "CAT" as a youngster and was known so during his long and illustrious naval career. WhenBUNO 141020 was assigned there was a contest within the CINC's office to come up with a name for the plane. The name ended up as the "CATBIRD" and the callsign was officially changed to "CATBIRD 1020."
1958, A R4Y-1(C-131 BUNO 141020) arrives in Naples Italy. "CATBIRD" is painted on the nose of the aircraft just behind "1020". The cat had not been painted on the tail at the time of this photograph. The aircraft was painted with a white upper half and a polished aluminum lower half, a very majestic aircraft in its day.
On December 29th 1959, Lt David Young wrote to Walt Disney's public relations director and asked if the art department could provide him with several sketches of both a "leaping" and "Halloween" type cat because of a lack of artistic ability in his unit. In February of 1960 Hazel Garner of the Walt Disney Public Relations Department replied and sent 2 sketches of cats along with 2 separate license's for each sketch. These license's gave the US Government exclusive use and the right to reproduce the sketches as long as the Walt Disney Copyright notice appeared along with the design. This cost the government $1.00 for each drawing.
In March of 1960, after a little arm twisting the Admiral agreed to have the Cat insignia painted on both sides of the vertical stabilizer. After this the "CATBIRD" became well known around various US and NATO airfields around Europe.
These photos were provided by the Walt Disney archives. They were sent to the archives by ADM Brown's staff along with a thank you letter from the Admiral. These are some of the few pictures that show the CAT insignia on the tail of the R4Y-1.
Sometime during March 1960, the CAT insignia appeared on the tail of the Convair R4Y-1 aircraft (BUNO 141020). This photograph is the only known photograph to exists of the entire aircraft with the CAT painted on the tail. The photo was taken in NAPLES ITALY. "CATBIRD" is painted just behind the cockpit window.
There is no documentation as to when the CAT insignia was removed from the aircraft, however the CATBIRD callsign stuck with the aircraft. In 1982 the R4Y-1 was replaced by a VP-3A aircraft (BUNO 150511). This was a converted P-3A ASW aircraft. This aircraft had been reworked and outfitted with a Executive Compartment complete with 2 bunks, head, desk and an entertainment console. It also had a four man bunk room which converted into a conference area, and a staff area which seated eight people. The crew compartment had bunks for two, a complete kitchen area with a stove, refrigerator, oven and a galley table. A full crew consisted of 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 2 radio operators and 2 flight attendants (long flights consisted of an extra pilot). Twelve passengers could be carried for a total of 21 persons.
Pictured above is BUNO 150496 a WP-3A with Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Four (WV-4) prior to its conversion to a VP-3A. Three of the five VP-3A's (149675, 149676,150496) were converted from WP-3A's to VP-3A's. The other two (150511 and 150515) were converted from ASW P-3A's.
Pictured above is "CATBIRD" (BUNO 150515) in Naples Italy. This VP-3A was the second to assume the role of CATBIRD in the European Theater under CINCSOUTH. ADM Arthur S. Moreau, Jr was CINCSOUTH and CINCUSNAVEUR during that period.
Three VP-3A aircraft have had the pleasure of serving as CATBIRD. BUNO's 150515, 150511 and today 150496. These aircraft were attached administratively and based out of NAS Sigonella because of the P-3 support that the base provides. The unit name is now called CINCUSNAVEUR Executive Transport Detachment Sigonella. Aircraft BUNO 150496 has been extensively modified to include an INMARSAT telephone system, upgraded UHF/VHF/SATCOM radios, Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) / Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) and a Contained Flight Information Recording System (CFIRS) commonly known as a "Black Box."
Pictured above is BUNO 150511. This was the first VP-3A to assume the role of CATBIRD. The aircraft because of its interior configuration was considered to be the best aircraft for the job. The Kitchen was larger with a Jenn-Aire oven and had a rear cargo compartment below the staff seating area. This particular aircraft while serving as CATBIRD had only one crew bunk, the other was removed to make room for a crew baggage compartment. Although the CFIRS system was installed it did not have the communications upgrade package which later came to BUNO 150496.
Pictured above is the current CATBIRD (BUNO 150496). This aircraft has the TCAS/EGPWS systems, Protected ILS system, ARC-210 Radio Suite, INMARSAT telephone system and a CFIRS "BLACK BOX." Crew bunks have been removed to accommodate the staff and crew luggage. An upgraded kitchen was installed along with new seating for the Admiral and Staff. This aircraft is the premiere VP-3A of the Navy's Fleet.
In 1999, a particular interest was generated about the historic value of CATBIRD. The name and pictures were researched and with the help of a local Italian aviation enthusiast and the Walt Disney archives, the CATBIRD design was found. The Catbird name and original design from Walt Disney was presented to ADM James O. Ellis with a request to reapply the art back onto the aircraft for the 40th year anniversary of the "CATBIRD Unit." Not only did he agree to the reapplication but also sent 2 brand new one dollar bills as a renewal payment to the Chairman of Walt Disney and thanking him for an "act of kindness" which created the logo 40 years earlier. The CATBIRD insignia and callsign has renewed a special interest in and around the European theater and along the Eastern Coast of the United States. The reintroduction of the art on the aircraft not only preserves the history of the unit but also serves as a preservation of Naval Tradition. When someone mentions "CATBIRD" everyone knows who you are talking about.
Pictured above is the CATBIRD art that was displayed on the aircraft in 1999, which was the 40th year anniversary of the "CATBIRD" unit. Note the Walt Disney copyright logo on the lower right-hand side of the art. The current artwork is displayed on both sides of the nose of the aircraft and does not have the dates or "40 years of service" logo.
"CatBird ETD Summary Page"