Aviation Spotters Online

Rathmines Catalina Festival 2017

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 ?Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Yak-52-VH-MHH-4859-ASO



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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Rebel-300-VH-TBN-3157-ASO



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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Avenger-VH-MML-6178-ASO



This year, the day’s flying activities began with a display from the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic team, the Roulettes in their PC-9s.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-0422-ASO




Following the roulettes was Glenn Collins in Paul Bennet Airshows’  historic CAC Wirraway, a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Wirraway-VH-WWY-0972-ASO




Ben Lappin then put PBA’s Rebel 300 through a very energetic and dynamic routine.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Rebel-300-VH-TBN-3479-ASO




Although on the program, JetRide Australia’s L-39 was unable to make the show so Wayne Mitchell  was the next display, demonstrating the handling of his Auto-Gyro.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-3676-ASO


Glenn Collins returned to perform a very crisp routine in Aerohunter Warbird Adventure Flights’ bright yellow Yak-52.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Yak-52-VH-MHH-4638-ASO




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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-5416-ASO



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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Avenger-VH-MML-6278-ASO




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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-0013-ASO





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.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-6716-ASO






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.


Please click HERE to see the full gallery of images.


  1. As always, love your work Darren. Seems as though you were literally in the thick of it with some of those fabulous close-up shots.

  2. Rathmines conjurers up many vivid memories of my time as a RAAF National Service trainee back in 1956. In those days Frigate Bird (which now hangs from the ceiling in the Power House museum) was still in the hangar on the hard standing adjacent to the shore line. Tis a shame that the PBY suffered a Starboard engine fault; it would have been the cherry on the cake, if it had been able to actively participate. There was an old airstrip across the point North of the base camp , where the Auster occasionally flew. RAAF Wing Commander Wearne , if my memory is still accurate flew the Auster. Great memories and I’d love to return to absorb the changes that now have taken over the pristine location.

    1. Thank you very much John. Glad you like the pics and I hope it helps in some small way to let everyone know about the fantastic efforts of everyone involved.


  3. Thanks for the memories and great pics. I did recruit training there in 1958 and Frigate Bird 11 was still there.Later in my career,lo and behold,I worked in the same hangar which had been moved to RAAF base Richmond.The CO at the time flew an Auster off the dirt strip.

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