Martin Mariner PBM-5A Royal Netherlands Navy Air Arm 1954-1960
The island of Papua New Guinea is the second largest island in the world.
From 1949 until 1962 the former Netherlands New Guinea belonged to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1962 the territory was handed over to the Indonesian Authority.
In 1949 the island was divided into an eastern Australian part and a western Dutch part.
The Royal Netherlands Navy was responsible for the defense. Infra structure was extremely limited. Road’s inland was almost non existing. Most transportation was conducted by sea or by air. Airports also were sparsely, and mostly (Re) constructed (1942-1945) by the Imperial Japanese Navy/Army or after the landings from General MacArthur by the American Armed Forces. The main Dutch air base was located on the Island Biak. (See map)
As mentioned, limitations made the Catalina Flying Boat the most important asset in the inventory. All places were located on the coastline and were accessible by Catalina.
When the Catalina reached the end of its service time and under high (political/military) pressure to get replacements, the choice fell on the Martin PBM-5A Mariner with floats and landing gear. In comparison with the Catalina, the Mariner could load more cargo, more offensive firepower and could carry more marines to troubled spots on the island. Not to mention, the fair price the Government had to pay to the US Navy.
Seventeen airframes, plus spare parts were obtained. Also included was crew and technical assistance in the United States. Contracts were signed and in 1954 the Mariner subsequently became operational part of the Netherlands Navy.
Thirteen airframes were air ferried to the main Naval airbase on the island Biak. Four airframes were air ferried to The Netherlands. These long flights over large ocean areas had to be carefully planned. Besides technical problems causing delay along the way, all airframes made it safely to their respective destination.
The mariner was initially designed without a landing gear. Later development, saw the installation of a landing gear. The weight of the airframe by the Dutch type went 1880 kilo’s up, but the engine power remained the same. From the start, flying with the Mariner was to be more problematic than anticipated.
To make it even more complicated, it was decided in the Defense department, that the Mariners in Papua New Guinea, were to fly to The Netherlands for their complete overhaul. A trip around the world. The stage for disaster was set.
Due to condense and elevated temperatures, there were technical problems that kept the aircraft grounded and unreliable. Fatal incidents gave the aircraft eventually the name “Crew Killer.”
In total, eight Mariners crashed, taking the lives of thirty-two persons. This all happened in a brief time. It is on record, that flying officers refused to fly with the Mariner. A profoundly serious offense in an organization, which was on high alert due to the Indonesian policy of (military) confrontation.
The air frames were registered from 16-300 till 16-316. (16 stands for P from PAPPA)
P300 / 1955-1960 demolished Biak
P301 / 1955-1960 demolished Biak
P302 / 1955-1959 crashed Papitibaai Papua New Guinee
P303 / 1955-1958 crashed Abadan Iran
P304 / 1956-1960 demolished Biak
P305 / 1956-1958 crashed Haringvliet waterway The Netherlands
P306 / 1956-1959 crashed Goa India
P307 / 1956-1957 crashed Naval Air Base “Valkenburg” (near The Haque)
P308 / 1957-1960 demolished Aviolanda technical Aircraft Center the Netherlands.
P309 / 1957-1960 demolished Biak
P310 / 1957-1960 damaged during water landing, demolished Biak
P311 / 1957-1960 demolished Biak
P312 / 1957-1957 crashed merauke Papua New Guinee
P313 / 1957-1960 demolished Biak
P314 / 1957-1959 written off after water landing.
P315 / 1957-1958 used for spare parts.
P316 / 1957-1959 written off after hitting a reef.
The airframes were manufactured after the second World War, and fairly new when they were handed over to the Royal Netherlands Navy. Eventually, the airframes were grounded and removed from registry in 1960. They were replaced, by the factory fresh, P2V-7B-Lockheed Neptune.
It is worth mentioning that the US Navy operated quite successful with the Mariner during the second world war. Commodore Leebeek, former Flag-Officer Fleet Air Arm Royal Netherlands Navy concludes, after studying all the small and fatal accidents in his book, that human error by pilots and technical personnel was the gross factor for the accidents. Due to the time pressure by introducing the aircraft to the fleet, education, crew training on all levels of the organization were not what it should have been. The complex airframe systems, electronics, shortage of spare parts did not help. Supplies had to be shipped from the The Netherlands to the area of responsibility. The maintenance in the hot and very humid climate was a constant headache. The quick rotation (technical experience) from squadron personnel with new members coming in from The Netherlands. The leadership from the Navy also bears responsibility. For instance, the long overhaul flight from Biak to the Netherlands.
(Biak-North Borneo-Singapore-Malacca-Ceylon-Karachi-Abadan-Athene- France- The Netherlands) This is one of the routes that could be followed.
After reading the full history in articles and books, I decided to build the Mini Craft scale model in scale 1/72. I used Eduard metal sets for internal and external use.
AK Duralium paints. Dutch Decal waterslide decals. Eventually it will be part of a diorama, depicting Jefman Air Strip, also located in same area.
IPMS The Netherlands.
Martin PBM-5A Mariner by Retired Naval Flag Officer Commodore Drs. Kees Leebeek.
ISBN 978-9-081-89365-7 http://www.geromybv.nl (Netherlands Language.)
Regards to all Modelers,