There was a rare sight above Whanganui on Sunday as a PBY-Catalina took to the skies for Vintage Weekend.

The vintage aircraft was photographed by retired aviation photographer Jon Davison, who is in Whanganui for the summer holidays with his wife, Jude Brazendale.

Davison said the aircraft could hold up to 7000 litres of fuel, which was handy for its main purpose.

"They can stay in the air for 12 hours and are used for spotting, and are designed as sub hunters that can also pick up airmen who have been shot down.

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"It's got big wings like an albatross, which means it can stay up all day, and to have one in New Zealand is unbelievable."

Jude Brazendale and Jon Davison who photographed and flew the PBY-Catalina on Sunday. Photo / Abe Leach
Jude Brazendale and Jon Davison who photographed and flew the PBY-Catalina on Sunday. Photo / Abe Leach

He said the plane was outdated when the war began but were still used by many different air forces at the time.

"They found another life in the war and were called the black cats because they were painted matt black.

"They landed on rivers in New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and would take off at night and look for Japanese ships.

"Japanese search lights were on them but, because they were matt black, no bullets came up."

It was a lucky break for Davison to photograph the PBY-Catalina after first spotting it while he was in his garden, making a few phone calls and eventually being up in the air alongside it all within a few hours.

On Sunday, the PBY-Catalina was flown by Brett Emeny and Brazendale, while Davison was photographing from a Cessna 180, which was being flown by Dee Bond.

The aircraft can fly long distances without refuelling and was used as a spotter in WWII. Photo / Jon Davison
The aircraft can fly long distances without refuelling and was used as a spotter in WWII. Photo / Jon Davison

Davison's interest in aviation began while he was a child growing up near Hunterville and playing on old WWII aircraft that were set to be destroyed.

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"Around the countryside there were lots of World War II planes stuck in fields and rusting away," he said.

"The United States gave all these countries aircrafts and tanks to fight the Axis powers, and when the war ended they had to buy them or destroy them, and because they were so war-weary no one wanted them so they were melted down."

As many would assume, organising a photo-shoot involving at least two aircrafts flying in close proximity to one another requires a significant level of preparation.

"There's a lot of organisation to make sure you get the aircraft in the right place and logistics to get it in place," Davison said.

"But I love aviation and once the shoot is over I'm just gob-smacked at seeing the earth [from above].

"The point of view and the opportunity is remarkable, and so is orchestrating the shoot, which I find a buzz.

"There are a lot of hours of boredom and not really doing much, then an hour of frantic, violent manoeuvring."

Davison photographs from another aircraft flying close to the subject to get his close pictures. Photo / Jon Davison
Davison photographs from another aircraft flying close to the subject to get his close pictures. Photo / Jon Davison

Davison has travelled the world taking aviation photos, from documenting fighter jets in the Gulf War, to a commercial shoot in Tanzania, to snapping a helicopter making its way around the highest peak in Alaska.

Despite decades of experience, Davison said he's still excited to photograph aircrafts every time he has the opportunity.

"Anybody who has an activity, whether it's fishing, tramping, rock-climbing or something where you put yourself in an environment, and for a limited amount of time you're linked to the earth or sky," he said.

"It's not a reason for living, but it's a nice link and bond, and you'll never get sick of that."