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Consolidated PBY Catalina

United States (1936)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Consolidated PBY Catalina Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat.

 Entry last updated on 6/20/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Consolidated PBY Catalina  
Picture of Consolidated PBY Catalina Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was one of the more important flying boats for the Allies during World War 2.

Maritime aircraft play an understated - yet hugely important - role during World War 2 where their long range capabilities were put to good use. Flying boats came to pass as a peacetime development, the earliest forms appearing prior to World War 1 (1914-1918) and this allowed their use as military platforms during the war proper. Their continued evolution, with appropriate tactics and doctrine soon fleshed out, led to ever-more impressive designs soon taking shape - particularly those designs emerging from Britain and the United States. With the arrival of the Second World War, the role of the flying boat was broadened considerably and now included overwater patrolling, reconnaissance, Search and Rescue (SAR), submarine hunting, and anti-shipping service carrying varied ordnance such as bombs, torpedoes and mines.

The PBY Catalina series became one of the more important of the American flying boats to see service in World War 2. The aircraft was designed, developed, and produced under the Consolidated Aircraft Company brand label in the United States and soon appeared as local, licensed products in other countries. Its reach also benefited through the Lend-Lease initiative which ensured the aircraft was stocked in foreign inventories during the war.
Picture of the Consolidated PBY Catalina Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat
Picture of the Consolidated PBY Catalina Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat

At its core, the PBY Catalina was a high-winged, twin-engined aircraft, classified as a flying boat for its boat-like/aircraft-like qualities allowingit to land on water or a prepared runway. The Catalina was crewed by seven to nine personnel that included pilots, engineers, bombardiers, and machine gunners - the total crew complement varied by variant. In prototype form, the PBY first flew on March 28, 1935 and beat out a competing Douglas Aircraft product in competition. Production models were accepted as "PBY-1" in October of 1936 (with the USN).

The wartime period would see a variety of engines fitted, revision of the defensive and offensive armament, and ever-expanding roles for the aircraft line. Tricycle landing gear tests on late PBY-4s would yield the truly amphibious PBY-5 and PBY-5A series models. Production of the PBY series would be undertaken by Consolidated in the United States, Canadian Vickers and Boeing of Canada in Canada (620 examples), and state factories in the Soviet Union (24 examples) under the Lend-Lease Act. In all, 3,305 PBY Catalina-based systems would be produced with 2,661 coming from American factories alone. The Soviets designated their Catalinas as "GST" (PBY-5) while Britain used the "Catalina Mk" identifier from marks I to VI.

The flying boats would go on to serve a critical role int he war particularly as the war was fought over such varied terrain types including long stretches of ocean and sea. Catalinas were in service until 1979 before being retired by the Brazilian Navy. French Catalinas were in operational service in Indochina for a time. Other operators included Australia, Chile, and Taiwan.

Many went on to have post-war careers in both military and civilian service. Still others soldiered on as fire-fighting platforms.

The PBY-5A featured a crew of ten. Its power came from 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 "Twin Wasp" radial piston engines outputting at 1,200 horsepower each. The engines were fitted along the wing leading edges which allowed for clearance against the punishing salty sea air. Performance included a maximum speed of 195 miles per hour, a cruise speed of 125 mph, a range out to 2,520 miles, a service ceiling of 15,800 feet, and a rate-of-climb of 1,000 feet per minute. Standard armament were 3 x 0.30 caliber machine guns (two fitted at the nose and the third at a ventral tail position) and 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns (one at each beam position). Bomb load was up to 4,000 lb of stores - conventional drop bombs, torpedoes, or depth charges being typical.
Cockpit picture from the Consolidated PBY Catalina Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat
Consolidated PBY Catalina Cockpit Picture
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United States
Year: 1936
Type: Long-Range Maritime Patrol Flying Boat
Manufacturer(s): Consolidated; Boeing - USA / GST - Soviet Union / Royal Aircraft - UK / Canadian Vickers - Canada
Production: 3,305
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 10
Length: 63.81 ft (19.45 m)
Width: 104.00 ft (31.70 m)
Height: 20.18 ft (6.15 m)
Empty Weight: 20,911 lb (9,485 kg)
MTOW: 35,422 lb (16,067 kg)

Installed Power
2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 14-cylinder "Twin Wasp" air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,200 horsepower each.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 179 mph (288 kph; 156 kts)
Maximum Range: 2,545 mi (4,095 km; 2,211 nm)
Service Ceiling: 14,698 ft (4,480 m; 2.78 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 526 ft/min (160 m/min)

2 x 12.7mm machine guns in bow turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in fuselage blisters (one each side).
1 x 7.62mm machine gun in ventral tunnel section.

Bombload of up to 4,000lb that includes 2 x torpedoes, bombs, depth charges or anti-ship mines.

Operators List
Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Canada; Chile; China (Taiwan); Colombia; Cuba; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; France; Iceland; Israel; Japan (post-WW2); Mexico; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Peru; Philippines; South Africa; Sweden; Soviet Union; United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay

Series Model Variants
• PBY Catalina - Base Series Name
• Model 28 - Base Prototype Model Designation
• XP3Y-1 - Prototype Model Designation
• PBY-1 - Initial Production Model featuring improved and more powerful R-1830-64 900hp engines; 60 produced.
• PBY-2 - Modified United States Navy Model of which 50 were produced.
• PBY-3 - Fitted with R-1830-66 1,000hp engines of which 66 were produced.
• PBY-4 - Integrated the recognizable fuselage "blister" gun positions; name "Catalina" is utilized for the series; fitted with R-1830-72 1,050hp radial engines of which 33 produced.
• PBY-5 - R-1830-82 or R-1830-92 radial engines capable of 1,200hp; export version for UK, Dutch East Indies, Australia and Canada; Tricycle landing gear testing implemented and integrated to final PBY-5 production models making the system completely amphibious; general improvements throughout.
• PBY-5A - Full Amphibious Variant of which 761 were produced.
• PBY-5B - Improved Amphibious Model
• Mk I - RAF Coastal Command Designation of the PBY-5 model series.
• Canso - Canadian designation of the PBY-5 model series as produced by Canadian Vickers and Boeing of Canada.
• PBN-1 "Nomad" - Naval Aircraft Factory production model with taller fin and rudder systems; model supplied to the USSR; aerodynamic and hydrodynamic improvements to airframe.
• PBY-6A - "Amphibians" with search radar installed.
• OA-10B - United States Air Force Designation of the PBY-6A Catalina amphibians.
• GST - Model Designation of PBY series as produced by the USSR; unknown production numbers.

Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-ship missile
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

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