Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow – PBY Consolidated Catalina confirmed for 2022

26 August 21

After being out of action for more than a year, one of New Zealand’s most iconic Warbird aircraft is being readied to make her return to the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest Warbirds Airshow – Warbirds Over Wanaka.

Following the COVID-forced cancellation of Warbirds Over Wanaka 2020 the decision was made to mothball the aircraft for the next year. 

Chief pilot, Brett Emeny, says they have used the down time to do more maintenance on the aircraft at their New Plymouth base.  “We want to ensure she is in peak condition for the upcoming summer culminating in our big trip to Wanaka,” says Brett.

The sight of the 77-year-old aircraft coming in low over Wanaka township and landing on Lake Wanaka is one of the highlights of the Airshow’s lakeside event. 

Brett says the lake landings are very special. “I believe this is the only remaining Catalina in the world still doing water landings so it’s quite unique.”

The aircraft is owned and operated by the NZ Catalina Preservation Society on a ride ‘cost-share’ basis giving Society members and their friends the chance to experience the thrill of flying in the aircraft while also contributing to her preservation.

The plan is that the aircraft will still be flying well after her 100th birthday. “After a major overhaul was completed back in 2016 and with all the work we’ve done over the past year, the Cat is now in better condition than most of us and should outlast us all,” jokes Brett.

About the Catalina

The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated a total of 56 Catalinas between 1943 and 1953.  During the war they played a crucial role in the Pacific Theatre.  Unfortunately, none of those aircraft are still flying today.  The aircraft which will be on display at Wanaka was built in Canada and has a rich history operating around the world including in Canada, Africa and northern Europe. Nowadays it is painted as NZ4017 (XX-T) of RNZAF No 6 Squadron. 

The aircraft was the star of a 1990 documentary called “The Last African Flying Boat” which tells the story of Frenchman Pierre Jaunet and his crew as they retraced the route flown by Britain’s Imperial Airways in the 1930s from Cairo to the Indian Ocean.  At the time Imperial Airways used Catalinas to offer the height of luxury air travel for passengers wanting to get around Africa.

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is being held at Easter 2022 (April 15th, 16th, 17th with Rides Day on April 18th). To learn about Grand Pacific Tours attending the Airshow view our eBrochure here. 

Photo: The Catalina landing on Lake Wanaka.  © Philip Makanna

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