Story and Photos by Phil Buckley
The annual Rathmines Catalina Festival, held in late October at the old flying boat base in Rathmines, Australia, thrilled the crowd of over seven thousand people who attended. Rathmines is located about two hours drive north of Sydney, New South Wales, and has a rich history associated with the PBY Catalina flying boat. The main attraction at the three hour air show was of course the ever popular Historic Aircraft Restoration Society’s PBY-6A Catalina which thrilled the crowd with a series of low passes over the water. The flying boat, painted overall gloss black to represent one of the famous “Black Cats” is noted for its water landings and take offs, one of the few Catalinas still regularly doing so. Other aircraft joined in the fun with Paul Bennet in his agile and colourful Wolf Pitts Pro. The Temora Aviation Museum’s CAC Wirraway and TBM Avenger performed low and high level displays, at different times during the show, with Paul Bennet at the controls. Bennet’s three-ship Sky Aces aerobatic team with Glenn Graham and Glenn Collins in the two other Pitts biplanes kept the public in rapt attention.
Supporting the main displays were three Tigermoths from Luskintyre Airfield flown by Andrew Biggs, Vince Cronin and Niall Higgins, Mark Pracy in his L-39 Albatross, a gyrocopter flown by Jeff Blunt and two Tecnams flown by Phillip Murdoch and Keith McGepchie. Unfortunately Ross Pay’s scheduled flyby in his CAC-built P-51 Mustang had to be scrubbed due to a mechanical issue. At around 2:30pm the Seaplane Pilots Association members departed the show, and the sky was full of Lake Buccaneers, Super Petrels and SeaReys, as they all flew past Rathmines.
To satisfy the public hunger, various food stalls were on hand. Other merchandise and local items were available across the park as well. The locally based Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association had numerous aviation artifacts on display in their main hall. The festival was a great opportunity for the organization to showcase their progress on their own recently-purchased PBY Catalina. The final parts for their static Catalina restoration project arrived from Puerto Rico in early 2014, and this has enabled the project to move ahead more visibly. Over the last year, a small group of keen volunteers has started to repair the airframe itself, along with a range of components, some of which were on display so the public could see their progress. This included a seat, engine mount and engine duct parts, throttle quadrant and the newly manufactured instrument panel.
The son of a former Rathmines Catalina pilot brought in his father’s flight log book and old photos of the Rathmines base during the war years. Seeing these valuable historic items is what the festival is about. Many other visitors also were recounting their family memories of the base or their relatives wartime service at Rathmines. A Catalina forward section on loan from HARS was also popular with visitors as it had an audio visual display running inside. As ususal, many hard working volunteers of the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association and Catalina Festival deserve recognition for donating their time and efforts to make the fascinating and unique festival successful. This years event was run by Ian Mackey – Cre8ing Growth, Christoph Gremm – Grimmel. For more information on the aims and progress of the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association Inc. and its Catalina please click HERE.