Sector 1. Oban to Dublin Weston Airport
Chief Engineer Garry Short had driven to Oban overnight arriving in the early hours of the morning. He joined the crew at the Barriemore Hotel for breakfast and Jeff reviewed the plans for the day with the crew and support team.
Rod was departing with Jeff’s family to drive back to Inverness for their flight back to London. Crew Chief Shaun Jarvis did not join them but instead volunteered to stay with Garry and return with him in the car to Duxford. John and David went with them to the Oban Airport while Jeff attended a wreath laying ceremony at the Ganavan RAF Memorial. Wreaths were laid by local Coastal Command veteran Tom Lennox, Neil Owen of HM Coastguard and Jeff who placed a Coastal Command wreath at the memorial on behalf of the Catalina Crew.
While John and David prepared the aircraft, Garry assisted by Crew Chief Shaun Jarvis soon had the landing gear ram bolt replaced and the paperwork signed off. In fact they ensured the Catalina was able to depart Oban on time. But first, the contingent of cadets who attended the wreath laying was able to inspect the Catalina.
John flew the initial departure so that the gear could be tested. The gear retracted without problem and it was cycled again while undertaking an orbit over Oban Airport. The good news was it definitely worked! Jeff then took control and overflew the local cemetery where floats were lowered to pay respect to Donnie MacFarlane a WOP/AG of 158 Squadron. Donnie had been a stalwart of the local service community and sadly he had died the day before receiving his Bomber Command Clasp. It was a simple task for the Catalina crew to overfly the cemetery but a gesture greatly appreciated by this airman’s family.
The two Harry’s had been delayed in 1913 by a flooded float so the efforts of Garry and Shaun were greatly appreciated. Flying conditions were slightly better than the previous day. After the cemetery flypast the Cat dropped down over Oban and departed to the south passing inside Kerrera Island and then west of Jura onwards to North Coast VRP. Turning south it was a case of flying past Kiells where the Sopwith Waterplane had set down for running repairs in 1913. There was a sense of remoteness about the place so it must have been even more isolated 100 years previously. What charts did they have to navigate by or was it a case of an atlas? The Catalina crew had up to date charts backed up by a pair of Garmin GPS units.
After Islay it was on to Larne. Hawker had set down here as well but the crew were under some time pressure today so they flew on. Flying at 700 feet and with mountains to the west, it was not surprising that communication with Belfast Radar was not easy. However, communication was eventually established and then lost. The crew continued their coastal route towards Kilkeel and the Irish Airspace boundary. Contact was established with Dublin Radar and clearance to enter the Class C Airspace granted. It was on to Loughshinny where Hawker and Kauper came to grief in 1913. However, the Catalina was not on a re-enactment flight! Jeff flew an orbit over the harbour to the delight of the locals who had their own special celebrations planned for the Sunday.
The Catalina then descended below 500 feet so as to remain clear of the traffic on final approach into Dublin. John then took command to perform another air display this time at Dun Laoghaire, the 7th Control Point which sadly the two Harry’s never reached. Hopefully, the crowds at the ferry terminal, marina and the Royal St George Yacht Club appreciated the performance.
There was a crowd waiting here and soon the crew and the Catalina were surrounded by photographers. A coffee and a comfort stop for the crew was appreciated. There was still a time pressure to arrive at Newquay / RAF St Mawgan so as to complete the tasks for the day. Sector 2 to follow with Pembroke Dock featured!