Two seaplanes made several landings and take-offs from the calm water of Grand Harbour this morning as the Malta Seaplanes Association held a trial edition of the Como-Malta rally to promote seaplane flying in Malta.
"Malta has a lot to be proud of where seaplanes are concerned, but many have forgotten or are completely unaware of the century-old legacy that exists," the association said.
The association is a non-profit organisation that promotes and publicises seaplane flying. Its aim is to restore Malta’s seaplane infrastructure and inform the people about Malta’s hundred year old float plane and flying boat heritage.
The first recorded aircraft flight in Malta was by Captain Cecil F Kilner on a Short Type 135 seaplane over the Grand Harbour from HMS Ark Royal more than a century ago on February 13, 1915.
"Much as the Rolex Middle Sea Yacht Race showcases Malta’s association with the Sea, the Como to Malta seaplanes rally will give greater international prominence to Malta’s aviation history and in particular highlight an extensive but much forgotten seaplane heritage from the glory days of the flying boats," the association added.
Malta was a primary seaplane base for the Royal Naval Air Service with a RNAS base (slipway and hangar) built in 1916 in what would become RAF Calafrana (Kalafrana).
Malta based seaplanes were a small and yet important part of Britain’s military arsenal at a time when its Empire. During the second world war seaplanes used to land both in Marsaxlokk Bay and Mistra as well as, occasionally, in Grand Harbour.
Seaplanes were also a common feature of peacetime life in the Maltese Islands. The King of Spain Alfonso XIII came to Malta on an Italian flying boat in 1927. That same year the Schneider trophy-winning Supermarine S5, designed by Spitfire architect R. J. Mitchell and flown in Venice by Sidney Webster, left for the competition directly from Malta.
Again in 1927, there was an eventful setback for long distance pioneering aviator Sir Alan Cobham in his trail-blazing England to Africa seaplane tour when he encountered severe weather in Malta which seriously damaged his aircraft. This famous pilot used his layby time to make recommendations for optimal airfield sites which were later developed at Ta’ Qali and what is today Malta International Airport.
A small seaplane operated a scheduled service between Malta and Gozo up to a few years ago.
The Malta-Como is being held collaboration with the oldest seaplane training organisation in the world, the Aero Club Como.
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