Republic Seabees in Hong Kong

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Happy days in Hong Kong 1948...
Flight instructor O. C. Chambers (left)
is the best man for this beautiful wedding couple, 
in front of Seabee VR-HDV.
Photo: O. C. Chambers (via Ian D. Johnson)

In 1947 Republic RC-3 Seabee s/n 976 (NC6693K) was sold from Republic Aviation to American French Co. for Overseas Development, Hong Kong, and registered VR-HDV.  Nothing is known about this company by this web-master.

However, in January 1948 it seems that this Seabee was purchased by the prominent local Hong Kong businessman and stockbroker Kim Bun Lee.  Mr.  Lee operated both his Republic Seabee and his North American AT-6 Texan VR-HDC (28 Oct 1946 - 23 Apr 1948) from the Kai Tai airport. At the time, in 1948, they were the only privately owned airplanes in the Colony.

The Seabee was perfect for Hong Kong, the then British Crown Colony, with all her islands and beaches.  Hong Kong is made up of the two main islands Hong Kong and Lantao, plus very many smaller islands, plus the Kowloon peninsula and New Territories on the mainland.

VR-HDV (s/n 976)
Hong Kong 1948
Photo: O. C. Chambers (via Ian D. Johnson)

The photo below indicates that the Seabee stirred a lot of attention when taxied up on the beaches...  At some stage the VR-HDV was repainted to the paint scheme seen in the photo below.

Mr. Lee said that he intended to fly around China in his Seabee if he could get permission from the Chinese CAA.  He also bought a Beechcraft Twin, VR-HEE (15 Nov 1948 - 17 Feb 1951), which he planned to fly around the world. 

Sadly, the wealthy sportsman died too young, before he was able to realise his ambitious dreams...  In September 1948 the Seabee was sold on to a new owner in The Philippines.

VR-HDV on a beach in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong, 1948.
Photo: O. C. Chambers (via Ian D. Johnson)

Many thanks to Mr. Ian D. Johnson for providing this information and the photos of VR-HDV. The Hong Kong Seabee information comes from a 1998 book called "Wings Over Hong Kong" (Pacific Century Publishers, 1003 Kowloon Centre, 29-43 Ashley Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong. ISBN 962-217-542-2) that Ian was involved in producing when he lived in Hong Kong.  The book was edited by Mr. C. Dunnaway.

The pictures were taken by Mr O. C. Chambers who was the Flying Instructor at the Hong Kong Flying Club. His daughter donated them to the Hong Kong Historical Aircraft Association of which Ian is the Research Co-ordinator.

Also many thanks to Mr. John Havers for submitting official register information from the Hong Kong CAR.


S Reg. Mk: S/N: Date: Remarks:
E VR-HDV 976 1947-??-?? Ex NC6693K
Imported to Hong Kong by American French Co. for Overseas Development, Hong Kong.
1948-01-27 Registered on Hong Kong CAR to Lee Kim Bun, Hong Kong.
1948-08-?? Sold to Mr. W. G. Robertson.
1948-09-?? Exported to The Philippines and registered as PI-C320.
1949-01-18 Officially cancelled from Hong Kong Register.
  Crashed (C) / Scrapped/Destroyed (D)
  Confirmed flying (F)
  Unknown (U)/ Restoration (R) / Stored (S) / Exported (E)

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Updated 2010-11-27

2004-2010 Steinar Saevdal