CATALINA flying boats - or black cats - can be "ugly but beautiful" at the same time.
That's part of their appeal, according to Terry Woolard, a retired heavy equipment fitter who travelled on behalf of the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association (RCMPA) to Puerto Rico to help dismantle a 1940s PBY-5A Catalina, Our Girl - after it was spotted for $20,000 on eBay - for it to be shipped to Lake Macquarie.
"Sitting in the water they look like a half-drowned duck but get them up on the step and they're totally different - they come to life," he said.
"There's absolutely no noise like it."
Australia's only operational Catalina, Felix the Black Cat, is expected to perform a fly past at the 12th Rathmines Catalina Festival, which will be held on May 19.
Visitors will be able to take joy flights on a Grumman Mallard flying boat and see an operating Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine, which were used on a range of aircraft including Catalinas.
The festival will also include an aerial display by Paul Bennet Airshows, the Royal Australian Navy Big Band, a military vehicle display, a vintage car show display and dragon boat racing.
The association holds the festival each year to raise funds to restore Our Girl and wants to have it on display for the centenary of the Royal Australian Airforce in 2021, but said it needs certainty from Lake Macquarie City Council it will be able to erect a centre on the site of the original hangar in the park.
RAAF Base Rathmines was established in World War II and was the largest flying boat base in Australia.
RCMPA president Bill Anderson said relocating the fuselage and 104-foot long centre wing from Kilaben Bay to a hangar at Rathmines will speed up the restoration and reassembling of Our Girl.
"We're all quite passionate about seeing the job completed," he said.
"We want to bring people to Rathmines.
"We have the freedom we do because of what happened there.
"People left for war from there and did not come home."
A spokesperson for the council said it was waiting for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to endorse a draft Conservation Management Plan for the area before it prepares and seeks input to the Rathmines Master Plan.