Clear skies and beautifully deep-blue waters on the shores of Lake Macquarie with an airshow thrown in as well. What better way to spend a day out for a good cause than at the 11th annual Rathmines Catalina Festival ?
The 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. This year’s event was held on the 29th of October.
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 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. Although the cat was seen at a distance, heading north-west up the lake, it disappeared over the horizon and did not return. Unfortunately, due to an issue with one of the engines, the crew had elected to make a precautionary landing at Maitland.
Last on the day’s flying program was the impressive Grumman Avenger, also from Paul Bennet Airshows’ fleet. As its display time came and went, it looked as though it too may not make it to the show. As it turned out, the Catalina’s unexpected arrival at Maitland had caused the Avenger’s departure to be delayed slightly. But, not wanting to disappoint the crowds, Tim Dugan still made sure to put on a great display in the surprisingly large machine.
The display line was modified this year too. In previous years, the flying displays were flown roughly east-west, to the north of the sea-plane ramp at of the former base, but this year, the line was north-south, to the east of the base. This new line made for better viewing of the displays for a greater part of the crowds and, for us spotters, meant the light was great for photography and just got better as the afternoon went on.
Although the no-show of the star attraction was a disappointment for some; I think the spectacle of watching the rest of the displays in such a glorious setting over the beautiful waters of Lake Macquarie, more than made up for it, and I look forward to catching next year’s show with the new display line too.
Congratulations to everyone involved 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.