Ill-fated flight to be recreated over Seaham

PLANE PLANS: The Catalina plane which will make the journey over Seaham.
PLANE PLANS: The Catalina plane which will make the journey over Seaham.
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AN ILL-FATED aviation challenge is to be recreated over Seaham ... with hopefully better results than the original.

A Catalina aircraft will fly over the town tomorrow at around 11.05am in commemoration of a daring expedition made by pioneering aviators 100 years ago.

The flight is being organised by the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, where the plane is based, in tribute to pilot Harry Hawker and mechanic Harry Kauper, who attempted to complete a circuit of Britain.

Four planes had been set to take part in the 1913 challenge, but the two Harrys were the only ones to take flight after one competitor died just days before it was to start and the two other crews pulled out due to engine trouble.

The pair’s first attempt ended in Yarmouth with a cracked cylinder and pilot exhaustion.

When they started again, they reached just north of Dublin and crashed into the sea when Hawker’s foot slipped off the rudder while landing, destroying the plane and leaving Kauper with a broken arm.

They missed out on the £5,000 prize, but were given a consolation award of £1,000.

Tomorrow’s flight will see the crew of the 70-year-old Catalina fly over East Durham because Hawker put his Sopwith waterplane down for repairs in Seaham, with the route bringing them from the south along the coast.

The plane’s journey started at the museum and it will have already passed over Tower Bridge in London, Netley Abbey, where the first race began, the Classic Boat Museum at Cowes, Ramsgate, Scarborough and Whitby.

It will go on to RAF Leuchars, Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, over the Highland Games in Oban, Newquay, Falmouth and Lyme Regis as it heads back to Duxford, with its arrival expected on Sunday afternoon.

The 1913 Circuit of Britain Race was the first major British competition for seaplanes and the original route started and finished at Southampton Water, with eight control points en route.

While the airspace in 2013 is more restricted than 100 years ago, the crew of the Catalina intends to follow the 1913 route as closely as possible and will also include locations which have links to the men on the mission, from Hawker’s burial place to where he learned to fly.

It covers around 1,600 mile and will take five days to complete, with overnight stays and stops for refueling built into the schedule.

Jeff Boyling, who will fly the plane during the memorial flight, said: “Flying the Catalina G-PBYA is a huge privilege and honour.

“It is wonderful that this historic aircraft can pay tribute to a great aviator who was a real pioneer.

“May the memory of Hawker live on.”

The plane’s progress will be tracked via the Imperial War Museum Duxford facebook page and through its Twitter account at @I_W_M.