RNLI lifeboat called to help aircraft drifting helplessly on Loch Ness

Lifeboats News Release

There was an unusual sighting reported on Loch Ness last night, but this time it was seaplane Catalina and not Nessie who required the help of the volunteer crew on Saturday evening (17 October).

The lifeboat was paged at 17.50pm when the crew aboard the seaplane PBY Catalina called for help after they had experienced engine issues while attempting to take off from the loch.

The crew onboard the
lifeboat reached the aircraft soon after launching. With the plane sitting exposed in the middle of Loch Ness and drifting, it was decided the safest way to help would be to establish a tow and move it to safety.

With the shelter of Urquhart Bay close by, the lifeboat connected a rope and slowly pulled the plane to safety. With a wingspan of 32 metres, the WWII flying boat was too wide to recover to a harbour or pontoon, so a mooring buoy was decided as the best option.

Onboard the lifeboat was David Ferguson and he explained the challenges of towing something as big and unusual as this.

David said: ‘Towing the Catalina would prove to be no easy feat. Fixing points are few and far between on such an aircraft, and the best option was underneath the tail, which barely cleared the bow of the lifeboat. Nevertheless, with some care, we managed to establish a towline.’

RNLI Media Contacts

For more information please contact: Martin Macnamara, Regional Media Officer for Scotland, 07920365929, martin_macnamara@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI press office on 01202 336789.


With dark quickly falling, the tow was a slow process. Searchlights were used to keep track of the mooring buoy, located near Borlum Pier.

Once the aircraft was secured, the four crew onboard could safely disembark the aircraft.

The lifeboat escorted the aircrew across the bay to their colleagues at the harbour and returned to station.

Kirsten Dawn Ferguson

Loch Ness RNLI tow stricken aircraft to safety

Kirsten Dawn Ferguson

Loch Ness RNLI tow stricken aircraft to safety

Kirsten Dawn Ferguson

Loch Ness RNLI tow stricken aircraft to safety

Kirsten Dawn Ferguson

Loch Ness RNLI tow stricken aircraft to safety

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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