Onerahi Airport is 7.8km from where we live and 11 minutes away by car (Thank you Mr and Mrs Google for that precise information). As you can see it is only a small provincial airport. The runway is too short for the bigger provincial carriers such as the Boeing 737's which fly between the big main centres. So I was surprised when out and about one day in January of last year I saw a C130 Hercules heading for the airport. Then I remembered that one of the attributes of the C130 Hercules is its ability to make short take offs and landings.
I am usually neither a train nor plane spotter, but at the time of the Hercules sighting we were leaving a friends house who lives down harbour on a hill at a very high elevation. The Hercules thundered past at a height that was level with us and in a direction that indicated that it was in full landing approach mode. We got to the airport too late to see it land but stayed long enough (along with all the other local rubber neckers) to watch the impressive short runway takeoff of this large aeroplane. And impressive it was, as it headed directly back to Australia.
C130 Hercules of the Royal Australian Airforce landing at Onerahi Airport.
The story behind the landing was that the Hercules had flown direct from Australia to 'Medivac' out an Australian tourist who had fallen ill and was being treated at the local Whangarei base hospital. The general consensus at the airport among the assembled rubber neckers was that it must be an Australian politician for all this trouble to be taken. A later press report confirmed this speculation.
About one month later when outside at home I heard and saw an interesting sight in the sky. It was the unmistakable shape of a Catalina flying boat. I was pretty sure where it was headed, so I jumped into the car and took 11 minutes to drive the 7.8 km to Onerahi airport. Unfortunately I was too late to watch it land and as I had other things I needed to do I didn't wait for it to take off again. I was satisfied with just taking a few photos while wistfully thinking that Yes! I should have purchased that new camera with its razor sharp mega zoom lens. Again there were a number of people from the local area all gathered to take a look at this unusual visitor to the airport.
In many ways a Catalina flying boat is somewhat like a Mallard duck, it can walk on the land, swim in the water and fly in the air. I am not a great fan of flying but I am convinced that if I was to purchase an aeroplane it would be something like this with its Mallard duck like qualities. It's a yachtees aeroplane having the ability to land on the water inextricably interwoven into its structure, something that is an extremely sane and sensible capability. Any pilot come sailor worth his wings would want to land on the water from time to time to kick back, open the thermos for a cup of tea, eat a few pre packed sandwiches and put his or her feet up to have a bit of snooze before flying onward.
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