Seaplane makes celebratory flypast

Scenes from a previous instalment of the popular firework display

Rumours dismissed as council says annual Stockheath Common firework display will return

The last time the seaplane Catalina N423RS flew was when it arrived at the Daedalus airfield in November 2002.

But after seven years of painstaking restoration and engineering work, the 65-year-old Second World War seaplane has taken to the skies again.

She rose again on the first leg of a journey that will eventually end in America, where she was built.

A small crowd of people gathered at the airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent to see the plane's departure.

And at 10.40am yesterday it left for North Weald in Essex, but not before making one last flypast of its home for the past seven years.

Geoff Pell, the commander at HMS Daedalus when the airbase was handed over to civilian authority in 1996, has been involved in the restoration of the plane since it arrived.

Now retired, he said: 'I've got mixed emotions. Obviously we're all sorry to see her go because we won't be able to work on such a prestigious and famous type of aircraft anymore but she deserves to be in the air. She should be somewhere were lots of people will be able to see her.'

Pilot Chris Goezinne was joined on the flight to Essex by co-pilot John Dodd and engineer Clive Edwards. Mr Goezinne said: 'She's one of the nicest aeroplanes I've ever flown, especially the landings on water. This one's looking very good, she's in good condition and we should be alright.'

The plane's owner, a British banker, plans to return the plane to its original specifications and display it in airshows around the US. During its history it has flown American naval airforce missions and seen numerous owners, including Greenpeace, which used it to monitor oil spills and illegal fishing.

It was also repainted at one point in the colours of RAF Catalina JV928/Y, flown by Flt Lt John Cruickshank when he earned a Victoria Cross during a daring U-boat mission.

Eric Downing, who served in the RAF, came along to see the Catalina off. The 75-year-old from Gosport said: 'I saw it arrive here and I think it's a tremendous effort the engineers have put in to get it flying again.'

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