The Rathmines Catalina Festival is held to promote the history of the former RAAF flying boat base on Lake Maquarie, just south of Newcastle, Australia, as well as provide a great day out with rides, food stalls, displays and entertainment for the whole family, and 2016 was the 10th anniversary of this very popular event.
The funds raised from these events go to the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association which uses the money for various projects, including the restoration of a PBY Catalina for static display and the aim of constructing a hangar to house and protect it as well as a museum to commemorate the history of the base and the personnel and aircraft which served there.
The Tecnam formation team from the Royal Newcastle Aeroclub at Rutherford made several passes before the arrival of the day’s first “heavy metal”, an AP-3C Orion from the RAAF’s 11 Squadron, a unit which was based at Rathmines during WWII, wearing special tail markings to commemorate the Orion’s service since 1968.
There was a distinct change of pace and performance as Paul Bennet put on a great show of aerobatic skill in his high performance Wolf Pitts Pro. The twist and turns, low level passes and seemingly physics-defying gyrations of Paul and his mount had the crowds gasping and cheering in amazement.
At last it was time for what many would consider to be the star of the show, the famous “Black Cat”, the PBY Catalina from the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park, just south of Wolongong. This iconic machine made several majestic passes along the lake, including some with the wingtip floats lowered in landing configuration. While many hoped that they might see the large flying boat make a touch-and-go on the water, it was, unfortunately, not to be, but the chance to see this unique aircraft flying at Rathmines perfectly summed up what the day was all about; an opportunity to remember and commemorate the servicemen and women and their history at the former RAAF seaplane base.
The formal flying program was rounded out by a display of Paul Bennet’s Grumman Avenger flown by Ben Lappin. The Avenger was a large torpedo bomber, originally designed to be operated from aircraft carriers, which was operated by the US Navy and Marines as well as the Royal New Zealand Air Force during WWII. While not operated by Australia, or at Rathmines, it could be said that the Avenger still shared a connection with its use in the maritime role.
Congratulations to the organisers for putting on yet another great show in such a beautiful setting and thank you to the owners and pilots for their skilled performances and support of this worthy cause.