By Colin Cool
Well, as most of you all know by now, our Cat is finally home. It’s been a long time coming, especially given the huge setback we encountered just over one year ago with that catastrophic engine failure the day before the original ferry flight was due to commence.
However, as we reported at the time, it was probably a blessing in disguise in that it happened on the ground and not in the air and in Seia and not some remote country (though Seia is no metropolis or aviation hub).
But above all, we were thankful no-one was injured and the aircraft was not damaged. This meant that after much effort and, of course, money, we finished up with two completely overhauled P&W 1830’s with almost zero-time hours, good for another 1000 hours which should mean 10 years before the next major overhaul. So perhaps placing this into perspective, it’s a case of short time pain for long term gain – well, sort of. We’re still hurting in the area of money, but we’ll deal with that later.
Let us take a moment to savour and celebrate the momentous occasion last week when our Cat finally made it to Australia.
After surmounting bureaucracy, a terrorist attack at Mumbai, the usual difficulties in sourcing avgas in some places, rising fuel costs and all the other perils attached to such an undertaking, the ferry flight of our Catalina finally came to an end at Bankstown just before 2.00pm on Sunday 7 December 2008.
A good crowd was there to greet her at Bankstown. However, perhaps the most impressive show by a long shot was at Rathmines, which, all things going well, will be her permanent home in the future. Over 1000 people turned up to witness what they thought was simply going to be a few low-level circuits as she passed on her way to Sydney when, down came the floats! Then she drew closer and closer to the lake’s surface. Then TOUCH DOWN! The picture above says it all. None of us expected that!
Nev Kennard was told that at that moment, people literally had tears in their eyes! I don’t know about you folks, but for me, hearing things like this makes all the pain and hard work worthwhile and provides much encouragement to keep going, to strive towards transforming the dream to have an operating Catalina based at Rathmines into reality. No doubt, there is strong support at the local level for the Rathmines Catalina, and you can expect we’ll be tapping into that in the near future.
We want to keep moments like that happening time and time again – indefinitely!
The Cat skimmed along the surface for what seemed to some in the crowd, quite a long time. In fact, it had some difficulty breaking free of the lake’s surface, as Geoff Hazelton, engineer for the ferry flight, reported after arriving at Bankstown. Such are the realities of flying boat/seaplane operations from calm waters. So the Rathmines crowd got more than they bargained for!
After Rathmines, our Cat proceeded to Sydney, flying over the site of the former Rose Bay Flying Boat Base before heading west down Sydney Harbour towards Bankstown.
The media coverage for this event was quite pleasing, especially via radio. Jim Hazleton, our Ferry Flight captain was interviewed by Ian McNamara on ABC radio just prior to departure from Kempsey on the last leg to Sydney. In fact, at work the following day, my boss told me that on numerous occasions, while listening to the radio, he switched stations several times and each time he tuned to another station “heard about nothing other than your #&$*ing aeroplane!”. So that’s good news.
That evening after arriving home, I tuned into the Channel 9 news to see what, if any, coverage we received. Nothing was featured until, at the very end, when, after reading the weather, they ended the news with footage of our Cat flying over the harbour with the closing music playing in the background. On seeing this, I couldn’t help but think that we should have slung one of those advertising streamers out through the rear gun hatch with the words:
WE NEED MONEY BADLY! To help, see How to Help
Maybe for next time! It would be really great if all this publicity translates to money.
Anyway, back to Bankstown.
The terminal building at Bankstown provided the venue for the Catalina’s arrival. Nev & Gaby Kennard kindly put on a good spread with sandwiches, cheese, biscuits and Champaign (naturally!). More than enough to feed the hungry horde anxiously awaiting the big moment. So a big thank-you to Nev and Gaby!
Members of the Catalina Association of NSW were there, prominent among them was 92 years young Group Captain Paul Metzler (pictured below), a Catalina captain with 20 Squadron who was shot down near Gasmata in 1942 (with the loss of three crew members) and spent the remainder of the war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
After the arrival of the Catalina and things had settled down a little, a small presentation ceremony was held in the terminal building during which each member of the Ferry crew was presented with a small Catalina Association stick pin and appointed an honorary member of the Catalina Association of NSW.
I’ve included just a couple of photos of the Catalina arriving at Bankstown. For various reasons, we’re limited on how many photos we can place in a newsletter. However, I can promise you that that we’ll have a swag of pictures on our website for you to look at in the near future. For those of you who don’t have computer access, hop over to a friend or family member’s place where there is a computer and ask them to visit www.catalinaflying.or.au.
Before handing over to Bob Cleworth for his slant on the happenings at Bankstown, I think it would be appropriate to provide a big thank you to everyone who helped make all this possible:
So that’s all from me for now on this subject. I’ll be back later on to flog off a painting of VH-CAT in wartime colours, hassle you all for more money (what’s new??) and wish you all a merry Christmas. And now, it’s over the Bob Cleworth…
The following is from an e-mail from Bob Cleworth, author of those two excellent publications Cats at War and The Fabulous Catalina:
This is Bankstown Airport, NSW, Australia 7 December 2008 about 14.00 LT. The PBY-6A has arrived, fittingly on the 67th anniversary of Pearl Harbour. Shortly after arrival the heavens opened up and down it came, but it was nice warm rain and we all sheltered under the wing. I managed to get inside and it was leaking like a sieve. Some of the older gentlemen in the photos are RAAF Catalina chaps who turned up to present the delivery crew with a small stick pin - to become honorary members of the Catalina Association of NSW.
I just thought you would like to see these (photos). The fellow with the white hair, Reefer jacket, cravat and little Catalina Stick pin is Paul Metzler. He was shot down near Gasmata in 1942 and spent 3 years as a POW, he is 92 and still perky enough. The other chap who is sitting in the pilot’s seat is Doug Nolan. Doug was a navigator and recently turned 90. He insisted on entering the aircraft though the blister* as he said that was the only way he knew of getting in - he did so very nimbly.
All the best
* Our Cat currently doesn’t have blisters, but here is an upward-opening hatch in the same position as the original blister, so Doug would have entered through there.
Ex RAAF Catalina navigator Doug Nolan
To obtain funds operate our Catalina, we are offering to sell the original of a painting of VH-CAT (80cm x 70cm framed) by Rex Newell, one of Australia's best-known and best-loved artists to the highest bidder. Last offer $1000
Original Painting of VH-CAT by Rex Newell
Sorry folks, but after all that excitement above, it’s now time to return to the planet earth and face some harsh realities.
Yes, the ferry flight is behind us. We’ve have indeed come a long way in the last twelve months. It only seems like yesterday that I was penning the December 2007 newsletter, still dispirited following the events that occurred only two or three weeks earlier. Now, 12 months on, our Cat is here with completely overhauled engines and we are much further in the red financially as a result of last year’s set back and our failure to attract a major sponsor.
So much to celebrate on one hand, yet so much to be concerned about on the other. Getting the aircraft to Australia is just the beginning of our journey. We cannot afford to lose momentum just because the Cat is here. We must keep moving forward to meet the challenges that lie ahead to make the dream of a flying memorial to RAAF Catalina crews based at Rathmines a reality. Among other things, we now need to focus our attention on:
And the list goes on. So if you can help in any way, please contact us. Any ideas you may have that could help us in meeting any of these challenges are most welcome. Any ideas we get are all good. The only bad ideas are the non-existent ones.
The aims of the Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd are by their very nature, difficult to achieve, however, it is this very fact that makes their achievement worthwhile. And it can be done, if the last 12 months is any indication – but only with your help!
So please get in contact with us now if you think you can help us on the next stage of our journey.
Well, the festive season is almost upon us (again), which means for many time for a break, celebration, reflection and some contemplation on the year ahead. For the members of the Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd (CFML), especially those who have worked so hard to acquire and ready the Cat for its ferry flight, and to eventually get it here, there has certainly been much to reflect upon.
Looking toward the New Year, we look forward conquering some of the challenges discussed above.
To all CFML sponsors and volunteers – wishing you very merry Christmas and a happy New Year and above all, a safe holiday season.
News or comments
If you have any news or comments regarding the website, please forward to
Editor - Colin Cool
Web Administrator - Jillian Brandon
Dec 16th 2008
Volume 2 Issue 11
A $1000 donation will get you a seat as a crew member on a flight. $5000 will get you a number of flights including water landings and some instruction. This reward will be available some time in the future once the Catalina is established in Australia.
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If you have any news or comments regarding the website, or newsletter items, please forward to
Editor - Colin Cool
Web Administrator - Jillian Brandon
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