Catalina returns to its HARS base in Albion Park

FELIX IS BACK HOME: HARS' Catalina named Felix returned to its Albion Park home on Saturday, February 10. It had been grounded due to engine trouble in Maitland since last November. Picture: Greg Stevenson.
FELIX IS BACK HOME: HARS' Catalina named Felix returned to its Albion Park home on Saturday, February 10. It had been grounded due to engine trouble in Maitland since last November. Picture: Greg Stevenson.

There was much rejoicing when the Black Cat of the HARS family returned to its Albion Park home on the weekend.

The HARS PBY6 Catalina had been grounded in Maitland since last November after it experienced engine trouble during a flight to the Rathmines Festival.

Since then dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly to “basically build another engine” for Felix – Australia’s only flying Catalina at present.

Senior HARS spokesman Michael Hough said it was great to have Felix back home.

“We make a commitment every year to support the festival on Lake Macquarie. It’s a big effort to get the aircraft airworthy so we were very pleased to take it up there and fly over the base,” he said.

We just want to celebrate the fact it’s back home and back flying again.

Michael Hough

“Unfortunately Felix suffered a malfunction during the flight to Rathmines, and as a safety precaution the crew decided to divert to Maitland...but the aircraft did manage to fly over the festival on the way to this alternate airfield.

“Since November an all volunteer team has been rebuilding an alternate engine, and travelling to and from Maitland as needed, whilst they worked out a schedule of refitting the new engine, flight testing the aircraft as airworthy again, and then preparing to fly it home.”

“Frustratingly” bad weather stopped the Catalina team from flying the aircraft down on February 3.

The good folk at HARS were ecstatic when the crew successfully managed to bring Felix home to Albion Park on Saturday, February 10.

A fund-raising appeal through www.hars.org.au raised more than $4000 to help with the costs of “getting Felix back home”.

It’s in the order of $4 million.

Michael Hough

“It’s a unique aircraft and very popular attraction,” Mr Hough said.

“We just want to celebrate the fact it’s back home and back flying again.”

Mr Hough also reiterated that Hollywood star John Travolta was still on track to fly the Boeing 707 aircraft he’s donating to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society to Albion Park at the tail-end of 2018.

“But I can’t tell you when.. but our president Bob De La Hunty is quietly optimistic that given time we will get that sponsorship and bring the aircraft,” he said.

Mr Hough said the latest costings associated with refurbishing and bringing the aircraft to Albion Park were significant.

“It’s in the order of $4 million,” he said.

“The fuel bill just to fly the plane from the East Coast of the US to Australia is about $300,000 US.”