Penny Furner President of Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association sitting next to the engine from the ‘Our Girl’ Catalina. Picture by SIMONE DE PEAKTHE distinctive roar of a Catalina flying boat is expected to delight up to 10,000 visitors from as far away as New Zealand when it soars over Rathmines this weekend.
A total of 15 aircraft including Tiger Moths, an Avenger, P 51 Mustang and L 39 Albatross will take to the skies as part of the eighth annual Rathmines Catalina Festival on Saturday October 25, with pilot Paul Bennet also leading an aerobatics show.
But president Penny Furner of organising body Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association said the focus of the day would be one of only seven flying Black Cats in the world performing a flypast at about 1.45pm.
‘‘The roar of the engine is such a lovely sound, it gives you goosebumps and when the veterans see it they get tears in their eyes,’’ she said.
The twin engined Catalina flying boats arrived in 1941 at the Rathmines RAAF Base, which soon became the largest flying boat base in the southern hemisphere.
Almost 3000 personnel were at the base in 1944 to 45 and 332 from the base lost their lives.
Ms Furner – whose father group captain Attie Wearne was commanding officer at the base between 1946 and 1949 – said while the base had other amphibious aircraft including Kingfishers, it was mostly home to Catalinas.
A Catalina taking off from Rathmines in 1943.
Painted black, the flying boats were slow but were reliable and could fly low on patrols of more than 20 hours.
‘‘If it wasn’t for the Catalinas we wouldn’t have won the war in the Pacific,’’ Ms Furner said.
‘‘Catalinas were the first to sight the Japanese in the Coral Sea and did secret night raids, mining Manila Harbour.
‘‘The Pratt and Whitney engine was so reliable that the pilots used to say that Mr Pratt and Mr Whitney were their two best friends because they got them home on a wing and a prayer.’’
The day will also feature a display of military and classic vehicles, seaplanes and gliders, memorabilia, music and cockpits of a Mirage Fighter Jet, a Beaufighter and a Catalina.
The association will spend collected funds on restoring a PBY Catalina built in 1941 called Our Girl that was purchased from Puerto Rico.
The plane will be a static display in a hangar the association plans to build as a museum.
‘‘Rathmines was known as the country club – everyone wanted to come to that base,’’ Ms Furner said.
‘‘I really think it will become one of the biggest attractions in Lake Macquarie and will put Rathmines on the map.’’
Entry to the Catalina Festival is $5 per person, no concessions. Families pay $15. 9am to 3pm, Saturday, Dorrington Road, Rathmines.Continue Reading →