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Last updated: 19 September 2021
Status:
Date:Friday 16 July 1948
Type:Silhouette image of generic CAT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
Operator:Cathay Pacific Airways
On behalf of:Macau Air Transport Company - MATCO
Registration: VR-HDT
MSN:
First flight:
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 22 / Occupants: 23
Total:Fatalities: 25 / Occupants: 26
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:ca 6 km NE off Kau Chau Island (   China)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Porto Exterior Seaplane Base, Macau
Destination airport:Hong Kong-Kai Tak International Airport (HKG/VHHH), Hong Kong
Narrative:
A Consolidated Catalina seaplane, named 'Miss Macao', was destroyed when it impacted the water of the Zhujiang River Estuary, shortly after departure from the Porto Exterior Seaplane Base in Macau. All three crew members and all but one of the 26 passengers sustained fatal injuries.
The aircraft was operated by Cathay Pacific Airways on behalf of its subsidiary, the Macau Air Transport Company on a round trip between Hong Kong and Macau.
Seven or eight minutes after take-off from Macau four passengers hijacked the flight. Three of the hijackers carried handguns and threatened the pilot. The plan was to force the seaplane to land near a remote place at the coast line and rob the passengers. They could then be held by relatives of the pirates and ransomed.
However, the captain of the flight did not budge and the copilot attacked one of the hijackers with a mooring flag. Shots were then fired and in the scuffle the captain was hit in the head. The pilot slumped over the controls, sending the aircraft into a dive. Control was not regained and the aircraft impacted the sea. One of the hijackers was the only survivor.

This hijack is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the first hijack of a passenger aircraft. This is incorrect as there were six prior hijack cases in 1948.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Sudden loss of control by the pilot as a result of being incapacitated by an armed passenger. The police authorities in Macau were in possession of certain evidence which appeared to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the crew of the aircraft were subjected to armed attack by certain passengers shortly after takeoff from Macau for Hong Kong."

Classification:
Hijack
Loss of control

Sources:
» Flight of no return: How a Cathay Pacific plane became the first hijacked commercial airliner (scmp.com, 20 July 2008)


Photos

photo of Consolidated-PBY-5A-Catalina-VR-HDT
accident date: 16-07-1948
type: Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
registration: VR-HDT
 

Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Porto Exterior Seaplane Base to Hong Kong-Kai Tak International Airport as the crow flies is 67 km (42 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Catalina

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  • 466th loss
  • 207th fatal accident
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