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The home of flying boats

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It’s a labour of love and the pinnacle of the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association’s work.

Decommissioned PBY-45 Catalina Our Girl was exposed to the Puerto Rican elements for years until volunteers bought it via eBay and shipped it in pieces to Australia.

The late-1943, ex-US Army amphibious aircraft’s fuselage is now being restored by a group of 15 volunteers before its tail and outer wings are reassembled.

The association hopes it can be relocated as a permanent display to Rathmines Park, which was once the largest RAAF Flying Boat Base in the Southern Hemisphere, by 2021 to coincide with the Royal Australian Air Force’s 100th anniversary as an independent service.

Mr Anderson said several hundred thousand dollars had been spent on the Catalina’s restoration since the association acquired it in 2013, with about $100,000 more to go.

This did not include the estimated $500,000 to build a permanent hangar at the park in which to store the Catalina under lock and key.

Mr Anderson added there was an existing concrete slab large enough to accommodate the aircraft.

He said the association hoped to be closely involved in the heritage-listed park’s future, which Lake Macquarie council owned.

“It’s the spiritual home of flying boats, and, to that end, there’s a considerable amount of history there that needs to be highlighted and reflected,” he told Newcastle Weekly.

But, as all of this comes at a great cost, the association relies heavily on community donations, particularly through the annual Rathmines Catalina Festival.

Usually held in October, last year’s event was cancelled due to feedback about the weather being too warm, so, this year the event is back, bigger and better than ever, on Sunday 19 May.

Kicking off at 8.30am, the event will bring Rathmines Park alive with joy flights, military vehicle and vintage car displays, an aerobatic display by Paul Bennet Airshows, a rare flyover by HARS Aviation Museum’s two DC-3 aircraft, food, live entertainment and more.

It’s all supported by major sponsors Centennial Coal, Lake Macquarie council and Kennards Hire.

Tickets are $10 per adult or $25 for a family of four (parking free).

Pre-purchase via stickytickets.com.au to skip the queue, or at the gate on the day.

For more information on the Rathmines Catalina Association, or to donate, go to rathmines-catalina.com

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