A pioneer of the long haul passenger aircraft industry, the Commodore "Clipper" grew out of a Navy design competition in the 1920s to create an aircraft capable of nonstop flights between the mainland of the United States and Panama, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. In response to these requirements, Consolidated produced the prototype XPY-1 Admiral designed by Isaac M. Laddon in January 1929 but lost the contract to the Martin aircraft company. The aircraft represented a marked change from earlier patrol boat designs such as the Curtiss NC.
In response to losing the Navy contract, Consolidated offered a passenger-carrying version of the XPY-1, which became known as the Commodore. A parasol wingmonoplane with all-metal hull, it could accommodate 32 passengers and a crew of three. The full complement of passengers, located in three cabins, could be carried only on relatively short route segments. For a 1000-mile flight, the boat probably could accommodate no more than 14 people including the crew. Wing and tail construction consisted of a metal frame structure covered with fabric, except for metal-covered leading edges.
With a first flight in 1929, a total of 14 Commodore boats were built. They were used in airline service from the United States to South America where routes extended as far south as Buenos Aires, a distance of 9000 miles from Miami. As the 1930s progressed the Commodores were gradually superseded by more efficient aircraft such as the Sikorsky S-42, Boeing 314, and Martin 130. The Commodore may be considered a first step in the United States along a road that was to lead to the highly efficient monoplane-type patrol and transport flying boats later in the 1930s. The XPY-1 and its civil counterpart, the Commodore, may be considered progenitors in a series of flying boat developments that led to the famous Consolidated PBY Catalina of World War II fame.
The only known Model 16 Commodore remaining has been located in a northern Canadian lake. There is currently an ongoing project to raise and restore this airframe for display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.