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Monster seaplane weighing 10 tonnes to be lifted from Loch Ness at noon


By Louise Glen


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Loch Ness RNLI stranded plane Kirsten Dawn Ferguson
Loch Ness RNLI stranded plane Kirsten Dawn Ferguson

In dramatic scenes a stricken Catalina seaplane is due to be removed from Loch Ness this morning.

Miss Pick Up, a WW2 flying boat, – the last airworthy in the UK – will fly again, this time on the back of a crane as her full 10 tonnes are lifted from the water, in a manoeuvre that has been meticulously planned by owners.

The well–named 32 metre wingspan seaplane has been in the loch, balanced on buoy, since Sunday when she experienced engine issues and had to be rescued by the RNLI team in Loch Ness.

A gofundme page was set up, and in its first day raised more than £13,000 to help have her removed from the waters for further investigation.

Miss Pick Up belongs to The Catalina Society, and is one of only 20 airworthy Catalinas left in the world, and the only one in the UK. The Consolidated PBY Catalina is a flying boat and amphibious aircraft that was produced in the 1930s and 1940s.

It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II.

Organiser, Matt Dearden, said last night: "This evening, Miss Pick Up sits calmly at her mooring in the distance, 800 metres away across the waters of Urquhart Bay, seeming to cast a sideways glance at the grassy quay which is her designated target for tomorrow.

"On private land at Temple Pier, the quay was built in 1854 and, for sure, has never seen anything quite like the visitor we are all hoping will rest her wheels there tomorrow.

"Today has been a day of planning.

"Local experts Ness Marine have been contracted to supply their boats and skills to move Miss Pick Up across the water.

"Moving her is easy, if you know how – tow from the tail!; holding her steadily and safely just three metres away from the quay, nose forward, ready for a crane lift, is an exceptionally demanding task, and we are grateful to Ness Marine for agreeing to take on this unique task at short notice, and for discussing it with us in great detail.

"Lifting 10 tonnes of Catalina with a reach of 30 metres requires more than an everyday crane but local firm Stoddart Crane Hire have assessed the task with us and are ready for it. Spare items - such as tools, flyaway spares packs, servicing supplies, and even the small toilet - have today been removed from the Catalina to reduce her weight to a minimum, just to give the lift the best chance of success.

He continued: "No-one amongst Miss Pick Up's team will sleep well tonight. But with carefully made plans executed by professionals, a light wind as forecast, and that essential ingredient, a little bit of luck, we will all be able to sleep soundly tomorrow with Miss Pick Up at a safe haven on land."

On Sunday evening with the plane sitting exposed in the middle of Loch Ness and drifting, it was decided the safest way to help would be to establish a tow and move it to safety.

The lifeboat crew connected a rope to their vessel and slowly pulled the plane to safety to the nearby shelter of close by Urquhart Bay.

Onboard the lifeboat was David Ferguson and he explained the challenges of towing something as big and unusual as this.

Mr Ferguson said: "Towing the Catalina would prove to be no easy feat.

"Fixing points are few and far between on such an aircraft, and the best option was underneath the tail, which barely cleared the bow of the lifeboat.

"Nevertheless, with some care, we managed to establish a towline."

An RNLI spokesperson said: "The Loch Ness crew were well aware of the incredible seaplane that had been flying over Loch Ness on Friday and Saturday, but did not anticipate to have it on the end of their tow rope, when the pagers sounded yesterday evening.

"Unfortunately, the Catalina had suffered a single engine failure, and was unable to take off, or manoeuvre. Whilst it was not in immediate danger, the historic aircraft could soon be blown onto the rocky shoreline of the loch, where its fragile structure could be easily compromised.

"The volunteer crew succeeded in fixing the aircraft to the mooring buoy, whereby the pilot and three passengers could safely disembark. The lifeboat was then able to escort the aircrew across the bay to the harbour, where they met up with their colleagues, and the lifeboat could return to the station...

"This one has definitely been a 'shout of a lifetime', especially for four new shore crew members, that helped launch and recover the lifeboat.

"A huge well done to everyone involved."

To donate to the campaign click here.

Read more stories about the Catalina Pick Me Up.


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