Catalina aircraft Felix the Black Cat preparing for return to Illawarra Regional Airport

Stranded Catalina aircraft Felix the Black Cat is being primed for a return to the Illawarra after it’s temporary three-month grounding in the Hunter. 

The World War II era plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Maitland Airport back in October while on its way to the Rathmines Catalina Festival.

Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association president Bill Anderson said the plane would likely receive a test flight on Wednesday above the Newcastle Aero Club at Maitland Airport. 

A re-built engine was transferred from Ablion Park earlier this week, where the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society is based and the plane is usually housed. 

"I'd imagine it would take them a few hours to bolt it on," Mr Anderson said.

NEARLY READY: RCMPA's Terry Woolard, Warren Easterbrook, John Collins and Bruce Ferguson with the plane. Picture: Lachlan Leeming.

NEARLY READY: RCMPA's Terry Woolard, Warren Easterbrook, John Collins and Bruce Ferguson with the plane. Picture: Lachlan Leeming.

“Wednesday is the day they're planning to start both [engines] and maybe takeoff and fly."

The RCMPA has been assisting the Illawarra-based crew over the past few days and the two organisations have a long history across the festival’s 11 years.

"Each year, there's a relationship and they try and get the aircraft up to our festival,” Mr Anderson said. "The guys that are here, they're all up from Albion Park.

"We've just been here taking the public out, showing them around and keeping things under control in the aerodrome."

Around 80 members of the public turned up on Monday to see the plane, which is the only operational Catalina in Australia. HARS project team leader Gordan Glynn said it's been a slow process fixing the aircraft. 

"We spent two days initially taking the engine off," he said. "We took it back to our base in Albion Park and built up a new engine. We cranked up the other left-hand engine this afternoon and it run pretty good. Tomorrow morning [Tuesday] the crane will arrive to put the new engine on the [other] wing."

Mr Glynn thought the plane would need a check over and running-in before and full flight back to Illawarra Regional Airport. 

"We'll get a run out of it in the afternoon [Wednesday] and after that, hopefully if everything else works out in our favour, we'll test fly it and then come back on a weekend and fly it home," he said.

"I've been up here three days this time and got a team on nine guys, so it's a big issue to change these things. The trouble is everything's 15ft up in the air.

"We've been flying it for a long time, she's a pretty simple old-bird but you've still got to watch yourself.

"Still got to adhere to the checklists and normal procedures.”

Mr Glynn indicated the aircraft will "certainly be back" for the 2018 Rathmines Catalina Festival in October.