Monday, 5 November 2012

Catalina Festival 2012 - Rathmines, NSW

What an awesome weekend I had! On Saturday I went to what was arguably one of the most unique Airshows I have ever attended!

Rathmines on the shores of the beautiful Lake Macquarie, is the site of an old RAAF Base. During WWII it was the home of the Catalina Flying Boats. These aircraft were used for special operations in the Pacific and Asia during the war dropping mines in Japanese held harbours and also for delivering and recovering special ops 'Z-Force' troops behind enemy lines to carry out their missions. They were also used to re-supply the brave coast watchers; intelligence officers and members of the local communities who reported enemy movements and positions to the Allies from behind enemy lines. The Catalinas were also used in search and rescue operations for downed airmen.

The Catalina was a slow aircraft and was not heavily armed therefore it had to rely upon stealth in its' operations. This meant that most of their operations were carried out after dark. Hence they were painted a dull black colour and became known as the 'Black Cats'. The original aircraft built for the USN had heavy armament fitted to help against fighter aircraft attack. To extend their endurance and flight time for missions, the RAAF stripped them of this armament. This gave the aircraft an endurance time of 18-24 hours! 

This festival held special significance for me. My dad served at Rathmines during WWII. He often talked about the Catalina flying boats and their crews and so it was great that I was able to be at Rathmines to see this wonderful old warbird fly in.

Apart from the obvious attraction of the day, the Festival-goers were also entertained by a restored Wirraway Warbird doing some fantastic aerobatics overhead. A squadron of Tiger Moths from Luskintyre in the Hunter Valley also made an appearance overhead. One thing that interested me was the number of small experimental ultra light sea planes. These looked awesome and I can see myself  ensconced in a lakeside house with jetty and a sea plane, rather than a boat, tied up at the mooring!  [Dream on!]

There were many market and food stalls to occupy the masses, and 2 stages set up for live entertainment. The various emergency services had set up information booths and displays of equipment which proved very popular.  I couldn't begin to estimate how many people would have attended on the day, but my guess is in the 10s of thousands. 

The basis of the festival was to raise funds to build a hangar on the site of the old RAAF Base. Some of the original building still stand and the hangar would be used to display war time memorabilia as well as fund the restoration of a Catalina flying boat and have it based there also.

Congratulations to the committee for such a well organized function!

Hope you and yours are all well as we are!


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