Catalina to fly over Cromarty Firth to mark seaplane race anniversary

Hawker and Kauper's Sopwith waterplane at Invergordon Australian aviators Harry Hawker and Harry Kauper's Sopwith Waterplane on the Cromarty Firth

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A World War II flying boat is to fly over the Cromarty Firth to mark the 100th anniversary of a seaplane race.

The flying boat, Catalina G-PBYA, is scheduled to fly over Invergordon, Evanton, Dingwall, Dores, Fort William on Thursday.

The aircraft's only scheduled stop in Scotland will be the following day, in Oban.

After flying across Oban bay, it will be put on display at Oban Airport between 12:30 and 17:30.

Australian aviators Harry Hawker and Harry Kauper landed a Sopwith Waterplane in the Highland firth during 1913's Circuit of Britain Race.

The pair were the most successful of the four crews which entered the event.Highland Council, which is supporting the aircraft's visit to the Highlands, said the flyover was expected to start over the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon at 14:45.

After a flight over the firth and surrounding area it is to head for Dores on the shores of Loch Ness and fly down the Great Glen.

The Catalina, which is displayed at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford and flown by Jeff Boyling, is expected to reach Fort William at 15:35.

It is then to be flown to Oban to perform an aerial display as part of the town's Highland Games.

Famous escapologist

The flight forms part of Project Hawker 2013, a celebration of the Australian pilot's round-Britain achievement.

Hawker, aided by friend and mechanic Kauper, flew the longest distance of the challenge before crashing near Dublin.

A former bicycle mechanic, Hawker was inspired to become a pilot after watching famous escapologist Harry Houdini make a flight over Australia in a biplane in 1910.

He and Kauper left Australia for England as young men to pursue their dreams of becoming aviators.

Hawker became Sopwith Aviation's chief test pilot before later starting his own company. He died in an air crash in 1921.

Kauper was leading engineer at Sopwith.

During World War I he developed a mechanism that allowed pilots to fire a machine gun through the arc of an aircraft's propeller without damaging the blades. He died of heart disease in 1942.

Catalina G-PBYA Catalina G-PBYA flew on anti-submarine missions during World War II

Catalina G-PBYA was flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force on anti-submarine operations. After World War II it was used for fighting forest fires.

Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth was a flying boat station during the war.

Catalinas and Short Sunderlands were among the seaplanes that were flown from the firth on convoy protection missions.

One Sunderland, N9046, was nicknamed the Flying Porcupine, after it fought off six German Junker Ju 88s that attacked a convoy of merchant ships.

Catalinas also flew from Oban on anti-submarine operations.

'Unique opportunity'

Black Isle councillor and local historian, David Alston, said many people may not be aware of the Cromarty Firth's aviation history.

He said: "It is very appropriate that 100 years after Harry Hawker flew his Sopwith into the firth, we will have this chance to see the flight repeated by an historical aircraft, which is the oldest airworthy seaplane in the UK.

"I hope as many people as possible take this unique opportunity to come and see the air display.

"There are lots of good vantage points both on the Black Isle and in Easter Ross and the stunning scenery will make the display even more poignant and memorable."

Pilot Mr Boyling said the Highlands played an important part in Hawker and Kauper's flight.

He added: "When they visited in 1913 there were tents on the southern shore at Cromarty for the Naval Air Station and this is where Harry Hawker brought the Sopwith Waterplane ashore.

"I've actually seen old film footage of him arriving so I am really looking forward to marking the 100th anniversary with a visit to the Cromarty Firth."

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