THE touchdown of an historic flying boat at Port Macquarie Airport on Sunday will be of special significance to one local aviator.
A Catalina aircraft, the kind used by RAAF pilots in World War II, is due to make a stop-off enroute to Bankstown in Sydney, after a challenging journey from Portugal, via the terrorist hit Mumbai in India.
For Dr David Cooke, a former flying doctor who commutes from Port Macquarie by plane to a clinic at South West Rocks every week, the visit of the ‘old warbird’ will evoke family memories.
“My stepfather flew a Catalina over the Bay of Bengal during the war,” he said.
“They’ve got a 30-hour endurance, which makes them a long range aircraft.
“He used to land agents on the western coast of Burma by moonlight. They were painted black to make them harder to detect in flight.”
Dr Cooke has donated money to help bring this plane to Australia, after it was bought at a cost of $160,000 in Portugal by the Catalina Flying Memorial organisation.
It had been used as a bushfire water bomber in the Iberian peninsula.
After landing at Mumbai last week, the crew flying it back to its new homeland had to fly out in a hurry, without completing paperwork, as gunfire rang out during the terrorist atrocities.
“It’s in servicable condition,” Dr Cooke said, “and can fly well. But it’s going to live at Lake Macquarie at a flying boat base.
“It will get a full paint job, including livery, to restore it to the condition that the Black Cats were in which flew from Darwin to Indonesia during the war.
“There’s one other Catalina in the country, but unlike this one, it’s not up to taking off from water.”
The final cost of the latest flying boat, built in 1946, will reach over $500,000, with maintenance, fuel and tax costs more than trebling the price paid for the aircraft itself.
After the touchdown at Port Macquarie, the Catalina will complete its journey to Sydney, before it takes up its new residence.
It is expected to land at 9am on Sunday and remain at the airport for an hour.
Find out more Port Macquarie connection in Monday’s Port News