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WATCH: Unexpected sighting makes waves in iconic Highland loch... and it's not the Loch Ness Monster!


By Gavin Musgrove

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There was an unusual sighting reported on Loch Ness at the weekend – but this time it was a Catalina seaplane, and not Nessie, grabbing the limelight.

The alert was raised at 5.50pm when the crew aboard the seaplane PBY Catalina called for help after they had experienced engine issues while attempting to take off from the loch.

The crew onboard the RNKI Loch Ness lifeboat reached the aircraft soon after launching.

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.

With a wingspan of 32 metres, the WWII flying boat was too wide to recover to a harbour or pontoon so a mooring buoy was decided as the best option.

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

The Loch Ness RNLI crew come to the aid of the stranded seaplane and its pilot and three passengers (photo: Kirsten Dawn Ferguson)
The Loch Ness RNLI crew come to the aid of the stranded seaplane and its pilot and three passengers (photo: Kirsten Dawn Ferguson)

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."

Not a sight seen every day on the world famous loch (photo: Kirsten Dawn Ferguson)
Not a sight seen every day on the world famous loch (photo: Kirsten Dawn Ferguson)

Darkness was quickly falling and the tow was a slow process. Searchlights were used to keep track of the mooring buoy located near Borlum Pier.

Once the aircraft was secured, the four crew onboard could safely disembark the aircraft.

The lifeboat escorted the aircrew across the bay to their colleagues at the harbour and returned to station.

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."

"A huge well done to everyone involved."

"Miss Pick Up", belonging to The Catalina Society, 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.

In Canadian service it was known as the Canso.

News from Ross-shire

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


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