Day 1. Wednesday August 21st.

Sector 1.  Duxford to Southampton.

This was going to be a busy day with lots of pressure on the crew. Jeff Boyling and Rod Brooking were well rested and rearing to go after a decent breakfast. At least the flight plan had been filed the previous day and now the weather was smiling on the crew with a clear blue sky to start with. Extra ground crew were on hand to assist Shaun remove the cockpit and wing covers prior to stowing them onboard along with the gust locks and Pitot cover. After many months of planning tension was mounting for Jeff but Rod was his calm self.

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Project Hawker 2013 Organiser and Co-Pilot Jeff Boyling, Captain Rod Brooking and Crew Chief Shaun Jarvis.

Jeff had organised a display board covering the events of 1913 as well as some history of G-PBYA, Miss Pick Up. His daughter Emma, who had flown in from Sydney, had checked the layout and approved it after some last minute improvements.  Baz Stead, another Cat Pack member, took this and set it up in the briefing room below the Control Tower. Meanwhile, Jeff’s son Alex did a final check of the on board cameras.

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The three great grand daughters admiring the display board.

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The time piece presented to Harry Hawker.

More family and friends along with the important guests began to arrive at the Duxford nerve centre, the portakabin used by Plane Sailing Air Displays Ltd. Jeff was able to say a brief hello before he and Rod headed to the Control Tower and some final paperwork. Jeff’s wife, Liz, was on hand and along with Baz Stead began shepherding the guests and visitors over to the Control Tower. Esther Blaine from the IWM was on hand with the press and photographers in their high viz jackets.

It was a great sight to see four of Harry Hawker’s six grandchildren there to see the Catalina off.  There were also 3 great grand children plus a niece of Harry Hawker. He would have been impressed with all the attention!  Jenny Edge (daughter of Harry’s youngest child, Mary) had brought along the Sopwith Waterplane Trophy presented to her grandfather by Shell.  Jenny’s sister, Cathy Dimsdale, had her grandfather’s timepiece for the display.

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With the crew on board the Hawker relatives grab a photo opportunity.

The airborne time was 1030 local so working back it was essential that the crew were on board by 1000.  Rod had completed the walk round ensuring the gear locks were out plus signed the paperwork (tech log).  Shaun had welcomed aboard the invited guests for their flight to Southampton. Departure from Duxford could have been a delayed affair due to the interest shown by the press and the surviving Hawker relatives.  However, Rod sitting in the left hand seat drew upon his 35 years experience flying to ensure that was not to be. With checklists completed and engines running, it was a thumbs up from Jeff as the Catalina taxied out to Runway 24.

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Rod was pilot flying for this first sector and as he pushed the throttles forward the Pratt & Whitney’s smoothly responded with an impatient roar.  The Catalina left on time and within the hour was on the ground at Southampton setting down invited guests but what a flight they had had. It is not every day that the opportunity to fly in a Catalina comes along.  To have one that is over London and part of a historic commemoration are an added bonus.

After takeoff and checklists complete, Rod and Jeff settled into the flight.  Jeff changed frequency from Duxford to Heathrow Special with the call sign “Catalina”. Cleared to enter the London TMA they flew south towards Tower Bridge not below 1400 feet.  A gentle bank over the bridge, it was then a case of flying south towards Mitcham and Streatham before heading west, but now down to a 1000 feet.

The next waypoint was Kingston, home of the Sopwith Aircraft Company in 1913.  Flying parallel with commercial traffic on final approach to Runways 27 L and R at Heathrow it was a case of keeping just south of the railway line so as to maintain a 3 nautical mile horizontal separation. Those shopping in Kingston must have wondered what was happening but with a proud aviation heritage it should have come as no surprise!

A left turn onto south and where was St Pauls Church at Hook? Jeff was pilot monitoring so he had responsibility for the radio plus navigation. The church steeple was on the nose and with a few seconds to run floats were lowered as a mark of respect for the final resting place of the man who gave his name to aviation, the great Australian pilot Harry Hawker.

He had learnt to fly at Brooklands and that was the next waypoint. What a sight to behold as the Catalina banked around to the left with Concorde on the ground underneath with a great crowd of onlookers waving. Departing the London TMA, Heathrow Special wished the crew well and passed them onto Farnborough Radar.

Soon the Catalina was joined by a chase aircraft for some air to air photography.  Jon Butts flew this with Karl Drage behind the camera. Another frequency change this time to Southampton Approach and soon both aircraft were on final approach.  Mike Glen from Southampton Airport Airside Ops was on hand to marshal the Catalina onto Stand 5.  The passengers waiting in the terminal must have wondered who was scheduled to fly on such an old plane.  Alas, with four air displays planned on the next sector it was to be only Rod, Jeff and Shaun i.e. a minimum crew as per CAA rules.

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The Catalina G-PBYA Miss Pick Up at Southampton Airport.

This video provides more detail http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XGj1qJdt8I

More to follow in the coming days!

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