Seaplane festival hails war pilots
The historic Battle of the Atlantic is to be dramatically recalled by the return of seaplanes to the Northern Ireland base they used in the Second World War.
The vast lakes of Co Fermanagh provided a watery runway for the flying boats and served as the perfect launch pad for their vital role in the Atlantic campaign.
Pilots were allowed to secretly breach the Republic's war-time neutrality by skirting across Co Donegal as they flew into action.
The Fermanagh Seaplane Festival is to attract various types of seaplanes from around Europe, but significantly the show will, for the first time, include one of the famous Catalina model of flying boats that used the Lough Erne base 70 years ago.
Organisers are in contact with one of the original flying team who operated at the site but are now appealing for other surviving crew members to get in touch and take part in the event.
Ted Jones, 88, originally from Nailsworth, Gloucester, but who has lived in Clontarf, north Dublin, for most of his life, said he is looking forward to flying along the so-called "Donegal Corridor" in a Catalina once again.
"This has never been done before and it would be absolutely wonderful to do it again after all this time. At my age it really would be a special moment," said the war-time flying ace. "But sadly, obviously there is not too many of my fellow pilots and crew about these days, so hopefully the organisers will have some luck. It would be nice to have a few more old co-pilots join us."
The big seaplanes were able to fly for ten to 12 hours, and so were particularly suited to the Atlantic coastal patrols so essential to the protection of the North American merchant ships. The planes were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions and cargo transport.
The Catalinas had a crew of eight, including a pilot, co pilot, three gunners, mechanic, radio operator and navigator. The planes could operate at long range, up to 2,350 miles. They were armed with five machine guns and could carry, 4500lbs of bombs, depth charges, mines or torpedoes.
The festival runs from September 23-25.