LARGE sections of the Catalina being restored at Kilaben Bay have made a detour to a secret location en route to their final destination at Rathmines.
A crane and semi-trailers were used to lift and transport the Catalina’s wings and an engine from the Kilaben Bay property on Thursday.
The Catalina is being restored by Rathnines Catalina Memorial Park Association volunteers.
Their plan is for the aircraft to become the feature attraction in a purpose-built hangar and museum at Rathmines on land owned by Lake Macquarie City Council.
RCMPA president Bill Anderson said the components had been transported to a secure storage facility provided by Centennial Coal.
“These components have been out in the open and exposed to the elements, so Centennial Coal has helped us by providing a secure storage site out of the weather,” Mr Anderson said.
The location in not being revealed for security reasons.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 11 Squadron, which once flew Catalinas from the former RAAF base at Rathmines and is now based in Edinburgh, South Australia, has completed the restoration of the Catalina’s second engine, rudder and tail plane assembly.
Those components were scheduled to be flown into Richmond Air Base this week.
“But the aircraft the RAAF were using was redeployed, so the flight to Richmond was cancelled,” Mr Anderson said.
“Once those components arrive from Edinburgh they, too, will be taken to our new storage facility.”
The fuselage for the Catalina will remain at Kilaben Bay.
Terry Woolard coordinates the team of RCMPA volunteers restoring the aircraft, and he has been on board from the very beginning.
“In 2012, we noted on eBay that this Catalina was available in Puerto Rico,” Mr Woolard said.
“So myself and another fellow went to the capital, San Juan, for two weeks on reconnaissance, to examine the aircraft and look at the logistics.”
In 2014, RCMPA purchased the PBY Catalina, dubbed Our Girl, and it was shipped to Port Botany and then trucked to Kilaben Bay.
Mr Woolard said it was important to have the Catalina components stored indoors.
“It’s been a long time since these components were under cover,” he said.
“I’m hoping that the next time these components get picked up they’ll be going out to Rathmines.”
Mr Woolard said he got involved with the Catalina restoration project because of his lifelong interest in aviation.
“It’s just something I’ve had all my life. I even learned how to fly,” he said.
A former heavy equipment fitter, Mr Woolard worked for many years in mining and earth moving.
“It’s all nuts and bolts,” he smiled.
So the restoration project enables him to combine his professional skills with his passion.
He’s urging more tradies including sheet metal workers to get involved in the project by volunteering their skills.
“The external cladding and repairs on the fuselage are now well advanced, but we’d love another half dozen sheeties,” he said.
Mr Woolard said a Catalina museum at Rathmines was a “build-it -and-they-will-come” project.
He said the attendance and interest shown by visitors to the Rathmines Catalina Festival was evidence of the pulling power of history and aviation.
“And we’ve got a lot of history to put on display.”