Emerald Airport was the stopover of choice for a couple of old ladies of the sky this week.
Volunteers from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based in Wollongong piloted a 71-year old Consolidated PBY Catalina Flying Boat and a 52-year old De Havilland Caribou on a six-hour journey north to Emerald to stop-over on the way to the T150 Defence Force Air Show and Open Day in Townsville on the weekend.
The Consolidated PBY Catalina flying Boat was manufactured in the United States in 1945 and immediately pressed into service with the USN. It operated a service from California to Johnson Island, Hawaii, Majaro, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa and finally to Japan after the fall of the hostilities. Following the war it remained in service for some while before finally being sold off to a private company where it was converted to a water bomber fighting fires in Spain, Portugal and Chile. HARS acquired the aircraft in Portugal in 2002 where it had languished for some time after being replaced by more modern aircraft types purposely built as fire bombers.
A team of five volunteers from the society went to Seia in Portugal and spent a couple of months performing maintenance on the aircraft and finally flew it to Arcachon in France to prepare it for the long flight to Australia. The trip home of 12700 nautical miles took 2 1/2 weeks and some 89 flying hours.
Since then it has been transformed to represent the Black Cats, which were part of the RAAF contingent that routinely operated in the South Pacific harassing the Japanese. The airplane is routinely presented at air shows as a tribute to the many young men and women who served during that conflict.
The Dé Havilland Caribou was truly the workhorse of the Royal Australian Air Force during the Vietnam conflict, serving to supply the troops with the necessary store and supplies to fulfill their task. During that conflict the aircraft served the RAAF operationally for some 45 years and HARS say it’s very proud to be able to exhibit this aircraft.
The aircraft are maintained, flown and exhibited by volunteers who say they raise money ‘any way they can’, but mostly from viewing fees charged at air shows around the country. Council was more than happy to waive the landing fees for the aircraft at the airport to help them on their journey
The RAAF and the Townsville City Council will stage the Defence Air Show on Saturday 15 October 2016 and RAAF Base Townsville will be open to the public on Sunday 16 October 2016. Visit www.airforce.gov.au for more details.