Consolidated PBY Catalina
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Consolidated PBY Catalina

One of the most successful flying-boats to serve extensively throughout World War II and the most numerous flying-boat in aviation history, the Consolidated Model 28, designed by Isaac Laddon, originated from a US Navy requirement of late 1933. The prototype XP3Y-1, developed from the PY-1/P2Y and flown for the first time on 28 March 1935, introduced some distinctive features. Most important was the parasol wing constructed on the basis of a cantilever wing requiring no supporting structures, although in fact two small-section struts were mounted between wing and hull on each side. This deletion of the multitudinous struts and bracing wires - seemingly inseparable from flying-boat design until then - offered an immediate improvement in performance. Another new feature was the introduction of stabilising floats which retracted in flight to form the wingtips. Initial trials of the prototype left little doubt that the Navy was about to acquire a significant aircraft. PBY-1 began to enter squadron service in 1937 and by mid-1938 14 squadrons were operational.

Initial export aircraft went to Russia, where the type was built subsequently in large numbers under the designation GST. The RAF acquired a single example for evaluation in 1939 and almost immediately ordered a batch of 50, the first of many to serve with Coastal Command. The name Catalina (adopted first by the RAF) was used later by the USN for the various versions which entered service. The type was also to serve with the RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF and the air arm of the Dutch East Indies. Production as a pure flying-boat ended with the PBY-4, for the last of these was converted to an amphibian with retractable tricycle-type landing gear, under the designation XPBY-5A. Subsequent aircraft had this as standard. Used widely throughout World War II, many amphibious Catalinas remained in service for air-sea rescue for some years after the end of the war.


 ENGINE2 x P+W "Twin Wasp", 880kW
    Take-off weight14700-16066 kg32408 - 35420 lb
    Empty weight9485 kg20911 lb
    Wingspan30.5 m100 ft 1 in
    Length19.5 m64 ft 0 in
    Height18.3 m60 ft 0 in
    Wing area130.0 m21399.31 sq ft
    Max. speed275 km/h171 mph
    Cruise speed250 km/h155 mph
    Ceiling4500 m14750 ft
    Range w/max.fuel4100 km2548 miles
 ARMAMENT5 machine-guns, 1800kg of bombs

Consolidated PBY CatalinaA three-view drawing (856 x 848)

Comments1-20 21-40
Ben Beekman, 26.02.2011

While working for Grumman Aerospace in the 1960's-1990's period my Section Chief was Tom Hine, formerly a PBY Black Cat pilot (Lt.) during WW2. There's a book in my local library written especially about these planes (titled "The Black Cats") that includes Tom's picture taken during an air evacuation of Australian troops from somewhere in New Guinea, showing him during the evacuation with his PBY. A super-great guy, Tom was in charge of the group at Grumman that designed cockpit displays and controls for the A-6, F-111, EA-6B, E-2, etc. He retired during the 1980's and returned to his home state of Connecticut. I've never witnessed such a wonderful retirement party as the one his many friends at Grumman gave for him. Held at a local restaurant near the plant, the place was just packed with people who came to honor him. We were all sad to see him go.
Does anyone out there remember Tom from those days?

Bob wehrli, 26.02.2011

I flew pBY-5A aircraft for three and one half years during WWII. Early Navy service was in the South Atlantic, against German subs. Later in the war we did two tours in the central pacific against Japan.

It is difficult to exaggerate about the capabilities and performance of those planes. From countless 15-18 hour flights without even a whisper of trouble from either engine; from repeated near surface full-stall landings in angry open sea, many blind at night; from bullet holes without without a structure failure; from steep attack or evasion dives and pullouts hard enough to warp a wing and jam the wing float mechanism. A great plane!

Lance Revell, 13.02.2011

The Forestry Service in Tallahassee, Fl had a Catalina as a 'water bomber' up til sometime in the seventies, when a hurricane deposited a Cessna atop it at our airport. Both were written off as losses.

Joe Klein, 18.01.2011

This and the Lockheed P-38 were my favorite airplanes from the time I was a kid. However, I had to settle for working on such products as the F-111 and F-16 as an adult.
You all have a great site here. Thank you!!

Duane Kniebes, 24.11.2010

The Air Force version of the PBY was known as the OA-10A. While as the base aerial photographer at Keesler Field in 1945 I had a chance to take photographs from the open waist blister of the aircraft. It's a great photo platform. I also took a series of photos from a PT boat of a water landing that went awry. The plane hit something in the water and slowly sunk. The three-man crew climbed out of the cockpit, walked out along the wing and stepped onto our boat. Another PT boat lassoed the tail (the only thing sticking out of the water) and towed it back to shore. I still have the series of photos that I took.

Richard Joyce, 06.11.2010

According to the 1941 Erection & Maintenance manual the height of the Model 28 from bottom of the hull to the top of the tail is 18' 10 5/8", Lengith is 63' 10 7/16", wing span is 104' 0"

George Ritter, 29.10.2010

I was told by an older ex-USN pilot that the Catalina was the first military aircraft to use fuel tanks in the wings, hence the large wing roots on the leading edges, and generally thick wings, therefore, leading to that concept in most military aircraft wings, thereafter. Another fact was that the flight engineer rode in the large wing root attaching the wings. Any comments on the matter.

Rod Brooking, 27.10.2010

Merlin Wagner asked about the oil capacity. There are 2 tanks, one mounted close behind each engine. Each tank has a capacity of 55 US gal/45.8 Imp Gal/208 litres.
Also Howard Rumrey said "It was the PBY that found the fleet at Midway and sank the Bismark." The latter reference is not accurate. A Catalina certainly spotted the Bismark on one of its Atlantic searches but it was disabled by a Swordfish torpedo bomber from HMS Ark Royal and finished off by other British battleships.

Howard Rumrey, 17.10.2010

The PBY also was known as the Black Cat It was the PBY that found the fleet at Midway and sank the Bismark.

Merlin Wagner, 16.10.2010

Can anyone out there tell me the capacity of the lube oil reservoir on the PBY.


Ken Keith, 14.10.2010

My Father was a Pharmacist Mate during WWII, and was trained as an Aviation Med Tech. In 44, he flew on PBY's that were attatched to both the USS Tangier AV-8 and the USS Currituck AV-7. He was transferred to the Currituck when she resupplied the Tangier in Minos, New Guinea, and from there proceeded on to the Philipines Invasion

Carl, 31.03.2010

In the late 60's, Avalon Airlines had a PBY. I was stationed on San Clemente Island and if enough of us were flying in on leave/pass at the same time, we could charter a plane from Avalon. Usually it would be a Goose, but a couple of times Avalon flew the PBY out. The ride back to the island was usually by Navy LSM which was slow and free. Going back we were usually broke and in no hurry. If the PBY was full, the cost was $8 each. The Goose, full, was $12 each. I've alway liked the PBY, a lot.

David, 27.02.2010

Does anyone know the diameter dimension of a PBY-5 wing strut?

George T. LaTour, 18.01.2010

Hi' the present i belong to the Lake Superior Squadron 101, Commemorative Air Force.What we have accomplished for 2009 was transfered a good wing and engines to a good hull/fusealge.Our goal is to put the 79Y PBY-6A back in in the air. It's a beautiful aircraft and we are very excited about it what a gas !! Check us out at L.S.S.101 CAF Duluth, MN.

Jim Burrill, 27.12.2009

I flew the PBY5A Canso in 1959 while stationed with the RCAF 103 Rescue Unit based in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. It was slow and on a trip from Burmuda we encountered twenty five knot headwinds and it took ten hours to fly the seven hundred nautical mile flight back home. On one occasion we flew bales of hay for the ponies on Sable Island, a hundred miles off the N.S. coast. At that time there was a lake to land on in the center o the island. I do not remember the nose wheel doors being so sensitive to damage, unless we were driving aircraft onto a beach, but the nosewheel did give us fits when the shims, that kept the nose wheel in line on takeoff, started to wear and the vibration would force us to abort the take off. It was a fun aircraft when making open sea landings and then using JATO to get airborne again. Even on "smooth" water and relatively calm swell conditions, it gave you a ride to remember, bouncing from one swell to the next until you made takeoff speed. I also remember the ailerons were so large that the aircraft yawed in the opposite direction first,unless considerable rudder was applied to keep it in the turn.
Jim Burrill

Jock Williams, 07.04.2009

In Canada we called her the Canso -and in the late 1990s I was lucky enough to check out in the Canso with the Canadian Warplane Heritage -a marvellous flying museum in Hamilton, Ontario Canada -under the tutelage of the famous Vern Schille.
The Canso didn't do anything fast -but it did everything well. It seems to me it took off, climbed, cruised, glided and landed at 70 knots! Well -in truth it cruised a little faster -but not much!
On the water there was about a 4 knot spread between disaster and success -you tried to touch down at 70. If you were 73 the nose would be low and you might collapse the nosewheel doors and sink! If you were 67 you would touch down too nose high, the nose would "slam" -and you would collapse the nosewheel doors and sink!
Once you got used to it though -you could trim it for 70 and carry out a series of touch and goes simply by easing forward on the throttles to take off and reducing them gently to touch down. If you kept the wings level you could do this forever -or until you ran out of lake! My personal best was 13 touch and goes in a straight line heading across Lake Simcoe.And it didn't sink once!
We didn't fly the Warplane Heritage Canso off the water -insurance was way too expensive -but Enterprise Air of Oshawa had one they operated in France -and it had the required insurance coverage.So when it was in Canada for maintenance we took advantage of the opportunity.
If you want a real thrill -sit in one of the side gun blisters for water touch and goes! It is unforgetable!

Jock Williams

David Cash, 17.03.2009

One or two of these were converted to airliners and used by a small airline in Alaska. My dad had pictures of one that he rode on in the early 1960's.

Phil Turner, 14.07.2008

You may want to edit the "Height" section of the specification shown on the PBY Catalina.

I don't think that the Height was 18.3 meters/60 feet.

According to my source, PBY The Catalina Flying Boat, Roscoe Creed, Naval Institute Press, 2nd ed., 1987; the Height is shown at 20 feet 2 inches for the PBY-5A version

1-20 21-40

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