Catalina splash down in the big lake

South Waikato News - - Farming - MATT SHAND

‘‘In case of an emer­gency land­ing please exit the air­craft via the ma­chine gun pods.’’

It was hardly a typ­i­cal in-flight safety briefing, but this was hardly a typ­i­cal flight. After all, not many flights take off from a run­way, ‘ditch’ in the lake, only to the take off and land back at the run­way again.

While the ma­chine guns, depth charges, tor­pe­dos and other ord­nance has been re­moved, the spirit of the old WWII war­bird has been pre­served thanks to the ef­fort of vol­un­teers from the New Zealand Catalina Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety.

Dressed in its Cana­dian Air­force Blue, and freshly washed for the trip, the Catalina looked a pic­ture, lum­ber­ing into Taupo Air­port on Satur­day.

It was one of the few trips the plane has made as it has been un­der­go­ing ex­ten­sive re­pairs at Ohakea Air­force Base for the past four years.

NZCPS Pres­i­dent Mike Mcsherry said they ar­ranged a train­ing ex­er­cise with Taupo Coast­guard be­cause the plane will be com­ing to the lake in the future, be­cause it can land safely there.

‘‘If we ever were to get into trou­ble they would be the ones help­ing us out,’’ he said.

The ex­er­cise saw crew mem­bers prac­tic­ing ex­it­ing from the rear blis­ters, that used to house .50 cal­i­bre ma­chine guns, and the side en­trance.

Divers from the Har­bour­mas­ter’s of­fice also aban­doned ship into the water to see how easy to was to exit the plane in an emer­gency.

The ex­er­cise has been hailed a suc­cess by NZCPS and Taupo Coast­guard with every­one be­ing res­cued and no dam­age done to the plane in the process.

Pi­lot Brett Emeny said it was good to be able to take the Catalina out again onto the wa­ters of Lake Taupo.

‘‘It does have its chal­lenges,’’ he said.

‘‘We won’t land if there is a big swell or if there are white caps on the lake.

‘‘That is just to look after the air­craft.’’

Orig­i­nally built in the 1940s the Catalina was used in WWII by Al­lied forces, in­clud­ing the RNZAF and RAAF.

These qual­i­ties made them ideal for long range mar­itime pa­trol, ship­ping es­corts, an­ti­sub­ma­rine pa­trol, trans­port and the search and res­cue of downed air­men.

The fully-re­stored Catalina.

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