මේ පතෝල මැස්ස ගුවන් ගතවෙනවා තියා කඩා වැටෙන්නේ නැතුව බිම දිගේ වත් යන්න පුළුවන්ද කියලා හිතා ගන්න බැහැ.
මේ ලිපිය දැක්කාම මම කෞතුකාගාරයක දැකපු, ලංකාවත් සම්බන්ධ උන කතාවක් මතක් උනා.
දෙවන ලෝක යුද්ද කාලේ, සිංගප්පූරුව ජපනුන්ට යටත් උනාම, ඔස්ට්රේලියාවත් එංගලන්තයත් අතර ගුවන් ගමන් සිදු කරලා තියෙන්නේ ලංකාවේ කොග්ගල කලපුව හරහා Catalina පියාඹන ඔරු ( flying boats) ලෙස හැඳින්වුන, බොහොම ප්රාථමික ගුවන් යානා වලිනුයි. අදටත් මේවා ගුවන් කෞතුකාගාර වල (ප්රසිද්ධම එක වික්ටෝරියාවේ, Lake Boga Catalina Flying Boat Museum) දකින්න පුළුවන්. ඒක දැක්කාමත් හිතෙන්නේ ඉහත මම කියාපු එකමයි. "මේ අටමගලේ උඩින් යනවා, වතුරට ගොඩ බස්සනවා තියා බිම දිගේ වත් යන්න පුලුවන්ද" කියන එකයි.
මේ ගැන ලියැවුන ලිපියක් පහතින් දානවා.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF FLYING BOATS IN AUSTRALIA
CLUB MARINE MAGAZINE | VOLUME 19, ISSUE 6
Lasting little more than 12 years, the golden age of the flying boat in Australian aviation history was as brief as it was dramatic.
You don't see them much nowadays – hardly any at all in fact. Lasting little more than 12 years, the golden age of the flying boat in Australian aviation history was as brief as it was dramatic. Luxurious Empire Class flying boats that were designed to open international air routes and strengthen ties within the British Empire became targets of Japanese attacks on Australian soil during the World War II. Flying boats set records, suffered tragedy and played a crucial role in keeping Australia connected with the outside world. Following the war, however, the development of longer-range land-based aircraft signalled a slow demise in the role of the flying boat in commercial aviation.
On a sunny day a small white seaplane comes home to roost on the peaceful waters of Sydney's Rose Bay. Gliding gracefully over the surface, the single-engined Cessna 145 eventually touches the water, leaving a trail of white foam and noise, until finally coming to rest. A lone seabird riding on waters that were once home to a large flock of mechanical pelicans.
None of the truly wonderful Empire Class flying boats nor hardy Catalinas that were once native to Rose Bay remain here. A small commemorative plaque is all that exists to remind passers by of a bygone era in aviation. It was a time when trans-oceanic flight was a novelty. A time when flying boats were symbols of modernity and luxury; when international travel was not simply a matter of getting from point A to point B, but an adventure.
Flying boats were primarily designed to carry first-class air mail. However, they subsequently characterised romance and adventure. In the 1930s, when international aviation was in its infancy, there were only a limited number of airfields capable of coping with larger aircraft. Added to this was the rather frequent need to stop for refuelling on longer journeys – the average flight from Australia to England at the time involved some 31 stops – and the navigational difficulties of flying over open water. An aircraft, which could land wherever there was a large enough patch of calm water and a mooring buoy, presented obvious advantages.
In July 1938, two C Class Empire flying boats arrived in Sydney. Only a month later, the first of these set out for Singapore via Brisbane, Gladstone, Townsville (where it stopped for the night), across the Cape York Peninsula, to Karumba, Groote Eyelandt and on to Darwin. The aircraft then crossed the Timor Sea, flying to Kupang, Bima, Surabaya and Jakarta, before finally arriving in Singapore. There, the service was taken over by British Imperial Airlines, who flew the rest of the route to London via India, the Middle East and Egypt.
The service was started at the behest of the British Government, who was keen to launch the Empire Airmail Scheme, in which all post would be transported by air to every corner of the empire with no surcharge. It was a grand idea that was never to eventuate. Favoured by Qantas, the introduction of the flying boats dramatically strengthened Australia's aerial links with the wider world, consolidating a commercial air route that had been in operation for barely four years.
By today’s standards as well as of the time, they were luxurious. The flying boats carried 15 passengers and a crew of five, as well as 3000 pounds of mail and cargo. There was only one class: first. For slightly more than the average annual wage of the time, passengers experienced interiors so spacious that a game of minigolf or quoits aloft was not out of the question. Cabins could also be converted into sleeping accommodation at night, in much the same way as on a rail journey.
Hudson Fysh, one of the founding members of Qantas and managing director at the time was quoted as saying: "Getting up out of his chair, a passenger could walk about and, if he had been seated in the main cabin, stroll along to the smoking cabin for a smoke, stopping on the way at the promenade deck with its high handrail and windows at eye level to gaze at the world of cloud and sky outside."
Lumbering along at a stately 160 miles per hour, the flying boats reduced the time taken to travel to England by air to an unbelievable nine days. Significantly faster than a sea journey and three days faster (and oh so much more comfortable) than the much smaller, land-based DH86 biplanes they had replaced. Although fast and efficient, the journey gave passengers an experience that has wholly vanished from international air travel today. A leisurely taste of exotic lands from the comfort of a flying palace that, although part owned by an Australian company, was most definitely British.
But it was all short-lived. With the onset of the World War II, the luxury of sleeping accommodation, cabin crew and all other trappings were stripped from the aircraft to be replaced by guns and bomb racks. The size and versatility that had made these aircraft so attractive in peacetime were to make the same craft indispensable in wartime. For although during the first three years of the war, from 1939 -1942, the empire route to London via Singapore remained in operation; the cargo of mail that had been routinely carried was gradually supplanted with loads of ammunition. Important wealthy passengers who had once been carried in luxury were replaced on return journeys by refugees eager to flee the path of the advancing Japanese forces.
Tragedy was to strike quickly though. On the 30th of January 1942, the flying boat Corio was attacked and shot down by Japanese Zero fighter aircraft, while ferrying Dutch refugees from the port of Sourabaya. Only five of the 18 passengers and crew on board survived. Two weeks later Singapore fell; the Empire route was broken. Four days afterwards, the first of the Japanese raids on Darwin caused massive destruction. One of the seaplanes, the Camilla, was moored in the harbour at the time. Avoiding the wrecks of burning and sinking ships, the plane was able to take-off during the raid and managed to escape to Groote Eyelandt, miraculously undamaged.
As the Japanese advanced rapidly through Java, an urgent demand was placed upon the remaining craft - the evacuation of stranded Dutch civilians to Broome and the relative safety of Australian soil. The evacuation was carried out by the Empire Class flying boats of Qantas, as well as by German-built Dornier DO24 flying boats, operated by the Dutch KLM airlines. On 28th February 1942, a large flock of these aircraft rode at anchor off the coast of Broome. When the Japanese attacked, many of these flying boats were still loaded with civilians waiting to be carried south to more populated parts of the country. Some were also refuelling; there was little or no chance of escaping the onslaught. Of the 15 flying boats that were moored off the coast at the time, only two survived. Sadly, seventy lives were lost.
It was a dark time in Australian aviation history. The Empire route that had been so successful no longer existed. Even if it had, there were simply not enough aircraft available to operate a regular service. Of a fleet of 10 Empire Class flying boats owned by Qantas, only four remained. Five aircraft were lost as a result of enemy action, one as a result of RAAF action - a landing incident at Townsville. Qantas was left with only two flying boats; the other two had been pressed into service with the RAAF. Apart from a handful of much smaller conventional aircraft, suitable mainly for domestic use, Qantas was largely incapable of delivering either international or internal services. The company did retain however, a collection of flying boat-experienced and capable pilots.