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PBY Catalina
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One of the 25 airplanes that won it
still flying 70 years after victory.

AIR&SPACE Smithsonian, May 2015
13:48 4/21/2015
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I'd Rather Be Flying From Hangar 18
in the...
PBY Catalina
(Featuring some of the Ol'Kunnel's favorite airplanes!)


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 spots.
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

Interesting Facts

  • Built in at least 25 variants
  • Served in some 30 air forces
  • Used engine exhaust as de-icing mechanism-a first
  • Named by the RAF
  • Mounted first US Air action of World War II [helping attack a Japanese midget sub at Pearl harbor]
  • Flew first round-the-world flight by seaplane
  • Nicknamed Cat, Black Cat, Canso, Nomad, Pig Boat, P-Boat
-- AIR FORCE Magazine / January 2009

After you put up the info on the PBY Catalina, I looked in my old logbook. I find that I have flown in thirty six PBY Catalina's from Bureau number 02289 to 08460. The closest I got to the pictured 08317 is 08306-- if it were horseshoes, I would have a leaner.

Most exciting was a rough landing,(seven bounces) on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.. We popped several rivets, which I repaired the usual way. took pencils from the Navigators desk, and poked the pencils in the rivet holes and twisted them , and broke them off for temporary repair plugs.

the late Remmel C. Wilson
11:22 10/10/2001

    The PBY Catalina is a personal favourite of mine in terms of flying boats and played a really significant role in WW2. It was known as the “Canso” here in Canada and was also built in Canada during WW2 in quite large numbers. A neighbour of mine growing up, Mr. Kendall long gone now, used to fly it actually in WW2 and said that it was the 80/80/80 plane. Took off at 80 MPH, cruised all day at 80 MPH and landed at 80 MPH. The guys who flew the plane loved it.
    -- Will R. --
    The guys that crewed it did, too! Thank you for all the support you have given me over the years.
03/05/2018 1332
PBY Catalina - Great Planes Documentary [GO!]

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