AUSTRALIA'S only operational Catalina, Felix the Black Cat, is a late scratching from the 2019 Rathmines Catalina Festival on Sunday.
The Sydney-based aircraft was scheduled to make several low passes over the lake on Sunday afternoon.
But the aircraft's owner, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), has informed the festival's organisers that Felix has a fuel tank leak which will require complex repairs. The aircraft won't be fixed in time to make the flight to Rathmines.
Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association president Bill Anderson said the news was a blow.
But HARS will instead make two DC-3 aircraft available for the festival.
"In the 1950s, the DC-3 was the backbone of Australia's civil aviation," Mr Anderson, a former Qantas pilot, said.
They were also significant players in World War II.
"On Sunday, there will be two DC-3s in formation, flying down to 500 feet, here at 12.30pm. They are powered by the same engine as the Catalina.
"Not having the Cat is disappointing, but you will not see two DC-3s flying together in formation at 500 feet in this part of the world again.
"I was deeply distressed [about the Catalina news] until I received word that this was going to be able to be achieved," Mr Anderson told the Lakes Mail this morning.
FOR the first time, patrons at this Sunday's Rathmines Catalina Festival will be able to take joy flights in a flying boat.
It's one of several new additions made to the festival by the event organisers Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association, a not-for-profit charity.
RCMPA member Terry Woolard said having a year off in 2018 gave the festival organisers time to rethink and tweak parts of the event program.
And he thinks locals will welcome the changes.
"We're confident it will be the best festival ever," Mr Woolard said.
All of the favourite drawcards - including the Paul Bennet Airshows aerobatic display - have been retained.
But the RCMPA decided to sharpen the festival's focus on World War II.
Visitors will be able to take joy flights on a Grumman Mallard flying boat and see an operating Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine, used on a range of aircraft including Catalinas.
"When those engines start up, it's quite something," Mr Woolard said.
And the 23-piece Royal Australian Navy Big Band will perform on the main stage, providing a festival soundtrack featuring war-era songs by the likes of Vera Lynn and The Andrews Sisters.
RCMPA president Bill Anderson said the festival was run by the association's team of volunteers to raise money to restore a Catalina, dubbed Our Girl, which the group has been working on at a property in Kilaben Bay since 2013.
The RCMPA hopes that the restored Catalina PBY-5A, as a static display, will one day form the centrepiece of a museum and hangar at Rathmines Park.
The venue was once home to RAAF Base Rathmines which was established in World War II and was the largest flying boat base in Australia.
Support from Lake Macquarie City Council was essential if the hangar and museum plan were to come to fruition, Mr Anderson said.
"Rathmines really is a unique piece of ground with a remarkable heritage," Mr Anderson said.
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