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sailor to hospital. The Seasprite’s three-person crew must act as an entirely autonomous unit, finding its way around with little or no aid from visual clues or external navigation aids. The Tactical Co-ordinator (Tacco), seated next to the pilot, in particular plays a critical role in driving the mission – navigating the aircraft, operating

and interpreting the sensors and operating the helicopter’s weapons systems. The helicopter also has a significant SAR capability with its Doppler hover capability allowing it to remain in a fixed position over the sea without the aid of external references.

But the sea, winds and launching from the deck

of a moving frigate presents an unpredictable and challenging environment. The crew must cope with complex air flows developed by the ship’s interaction with its environment and its home base is never fixed, so seemingly simple tasks like finding your way home are never straight forward. With so much that can go wrong there must be


crew began operating the disbanded No.5 Squadron’s Singapore flying boats, while awaiting the delivery of Catalina Flying Boats (Sea ‘Cats’) from the United States. Despite their obsolescence the British-built Singapores provided much-needed defence against Japanese submarines around the Fijian islands.

The first of the RNZAF’s new 22 Catalinas arrived at the Kiwi base at Fiji’s Lauthala Bay on 3 April 1943 from San Diego. The arrival was followed by the formation of Pacific Ferry Flight flying C47 Dakotas and Catalinas to No.40 Squadron at Whenuapai and No.6 Squadron at Lauthala Bay. After a long birth No.6 Squadron ‘officially’ came into existence on 25 May 1943.

For ‘official’ purposes it is recorded that No.6 Squadron was first formed in Milson, Palmerston North in early 1942 as an Army Co-operation (AC) Squadron flying Hinds. A few months later it was disbanded.

What can be described as the real history of No.6 (Flying Boat) Squadron began, in an operational sense, in January 1943 when

The twin-engined ‘Cat’ says historian Paul Harrison was: One of the two major types of twin-engined flying boats built by the United States for use by US Navy Patrol Squadrons (the second type being the PBM Martin Mariner). One advantage the Americans held was in engine design and the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines fitted to the Catalinas proved very reliable and popular both with the aircrew and technicians.

With its all-metal hull, streamlined appearance and upswept curve to the vertical tail, the Catalina gave (quite erroneously) the impres-



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