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In the early afternoon of Tuesday 7 February 1950 RNZAF Catalina serial number NZ4051, identification letters KN-H, arrived at Evans Bay, Wellington from the Chatham Islands to drop off passengers. Having done this, and taken on two passengers, the flying-boat taxied out into Evans Bay for the return flight to the Hobsonville air base in Auckland.

The sea was quite rough, with winds gusting to 40mph, so the pilot headed for the end of the bay seeking calmer water before beginning the take-off run. An eyewitness reported “The boat started to taxi, and when a very rough sea developed, with waves breaking right over her, she turned and taxied toward the beach. We heard the engine roaring as she moved through the spray of the waves. Then suddenly the engine stopped, and the flying-boat nose-dived into the water”

The inner and outer covers protecting the bomb-aimers panel had been punched in, and the glass panel itself shattered, when the nose of the aircraft hit a wave, allowing water to flood in. Fortunately, the crew and passengers were able to abandon the aircraft and were quickly picked up by the control boat to be returned to Shelly Bay. The plane, with the hull largely submerged, the wings awash and the tail sticking up, was towed towards the head of the bay, where it grounded.

Next day the Harbour Board’s floating crane Hikitia was called upon the salvage the aircraft; one attempt on Wednesday failed when the lifting strops broke, and the wreck was finally lifted out of the water on Tuesday 14 February and deposited on the wharf at Shelly Bay. After a week in salt water, coupled with the damage sustained during the salvage, the aircraft was judged to be a total loss. The fuselage and engines were sold for scrap, and it was struck off charge on 24 June 1950.


Photos courtesy of the Evening Post/Turnbull Library:

The Catalina in Evans Bay. Note the old Evans Bay Power Station in the background.

Lifting attempt out in the bay – unsuccessful.

Bow of Catalina alongside Hikitia. The bomb-aimer’s panel is the rectangle bottom right.

Hooking on.

Looking sad and sorry on the wharf at Shelly Bay.



The Dominion February 8 1950

The Dominion February 9 1950

The Dominion February 10 1950

The Dominion February 15 1950

The Golden Age of New Zealand Flying Boats


An Unusual Salvage

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