Paul Muller made no secret of his disappointment when two planned visits to Kaitaia by the only Catalina flying boat in the world that is fitted out to carry passengers were cancelled thanks to poor weather in April last year, but he now has everything crossed in the hope that it will land at the town's airport on Friday February 7.
The 76-year-old piece of aviation history is due to spend two days in Kaitaia, to take part in a Kaitaia Aero Club open day, and is scheduled to make multiple local flights with passengers aboard.
Mr Muller said he had been a lifelong fan of the aircraft, thanks in part to the yarns he heard as a child from a friend's father.
"I spent hours and hours hanging out with my best friend Pine Takarangi when we were growing up on a farm south of Patea," he said.
"His dad, Mick, would tell us tales of when he was a navigator/radio operator assigned to the RNZAF in a PBY Catalina during World War II, patrolling the Pacific, looking for enemy subs, downed airmen, lost seamen and signs of Japanese activity.
"He told me about the Pommie crew member whose job it was, after returning to base, to lasso the mooring and secure the lumbering flying boat. Only trouble was he couldn't swim, and was dead scared of the water, while Mick, who had been raised on the banks of the Whanganui River, swam like a fish. So he volunteered to secure the plane to the mooring for him.
"On one occasion the skipper yelled at him to hook up to a particular buoy. Mick thought they were going a bit fast, but it wasn't his place to question orders, so, with consummate skill, he threw the rope and captured the buoy. The plane came to an instant halt, the nose diving under the water while the tail soared high in the air, akin to the Titanic going down.
"It did bob up again, at which point the skipper informed Mick that he had been referring to another buoy altogether."
The RNZAF had used 56 Catalinas in the defence of New Zealand against invasion during World War II, Paul said. More than 7000 were built altogether, and they had a huge influence on the outcome of the war. They then slowly began to disappear. Some were used to fight fires, Tasman Empire Airways (TEAL) used one, and a few ended up in wealthy private hands or in museums.
Two were converted into 16-seat passenger aircraft, one of them in Holland, until a landing mishap saw it withdrawn from service. The other, which was used to fly high-end charters in Africa, now the only one in the world that was fitted for passengers, had been bought and restored by the New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society.
That was the plane that was coming to Kaitaia.