Using new structural techniques, as well as practical experience gained by
the Navy from its first monoplane patrol boats, the Consolidated PBY "Catalina"
was designed to replace the P3M and P2Y seaplanes. Initial models produced
in l937 were strictly seaplanes limited to waterborne takeoffs and landings
with retractable outer wing floats. If repairs were required on shore,
beaching gear was floated out and attached to a buoyed aircraft to permit it
be towed up a ramp for necessary maintenance. In November l939 Consolidated
flew the first of its amphibian designs that incorporated retractable, tricycle
landing gear to give them greater flexibility as a warplane.
IIn May l94l, a lend-lease PBY flown by a U.S. Navy pilot on duty as an
instructor with the RAF, is credited with locating the German pocket-battleship
Bismarck to be sunk the following day by a British battleship/cruiser force.
It was also a PBY that made the only attack on a Japanese ship when it bombed
a midget submarine on 7 December l94l, and later spotted the Japanese invasion
and carrier strike forces during the Battle of Midway in June l942. During
World War II, the "Catalinas" performed a variety of essential duties,
including long-range scouting and antisubmarine patrols, convoy escorts, SAR
(search and rescue) and torpedo/bombing attack operations. It was in the
latter functions that the PBY established its greatest legacy by sinking more
enemy shipping than any other single type of aircraft during World War II. One
squadron in particular (the Black Cats) with aircraft painted black for night
operations only, were credited with sinking hundreds of tons of enemy shipping.
Two squadrons (VP-63 and VP-9l) were equipped with magnetic detection gear in
order to locate submerged submarines. Retro-bombs were also installed which,
when fired backwards at a velocity equal to the speed of the aircraft, dropped
straight down upon a target being over-flown by the aircraft.
The last of the Navy's PBYs were retired in l957. Many of the aircraft are
still in active use today such as for forest fire operations in which they land
on lakes and scoop up water in special internal tanks to be dropped on hot
The PBY (BuNo 083l7) on display is a PBY-5 (non-amphibian), the only one known
to exist and is on loan from the Smithsonian.
Manufacturer: Consolidated Aircraft Corp
Type: Patrol bomber flying-boat
Crew: Seven to nine
Powerplant: 2-l,200 hp R-l830-92s
Dimensions: Span l04' length 63'l0"
Weight: 34,000 lbs gross
Speed: l89 mph maximum
Range: l,500 miles tactical
Armament: 2-0.30in; 2.0.50in; 4-l,000 lb bombs