Consolidated PBY Catalina
|PBY-5 landing at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.|
|Designer||Isaac M. Laddon|
|First flight||28 March 1935|
|Introduction||October 1936, United States Navy|
|Retired||January 1957, United States Navy Reserve|
|Primary users||United States Navy
United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
|Number built||3,305 (3,281 US-built, 24 Soviet-built)|
|Unit cost||US$90,000 (as of 1935)|
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat, and later an amphibious aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.
During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. The PBY was the most numerous aircraft of its kind and the last active military PBYs were not retired from service until the 1980s. Even today, nearly 80 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as a waterbomber (or airtanker) in aerial firefighting operations all over the world.
The designation "PBY" was determined in accordance with the U.S. Navy aircraft designation system of 1922; PB representing "Patrol Bomber" and Y being the code assigned to Consolidated Aircraft as its manufacturer. Catalinas built by other manufacturers for the US Navy were designated according to different manufacturer codes, thus Canadian Vickers-built examples were designated PBV, Boeing-Canada examples PB2B (there already being a Boeing PBB) and Naval Aircraft Factory examples were designated PBN. Canadian examples were named Canso by the Royal Canadian Air Force in accordance with contemporary British naming practice of naming seaplanes after coastal port towns, in this case for the town of Canso in Nova Scotia while the RAF used the name Catalina. The United States Army Air Forces and later the United States Air Force used the designation OA-10. Navy Catalinas used in the Pacific against the Japanese for night operations were painted black overall, and as a result were sometimes referred to locally as "Black Cats".
The PBY was originally designed to be a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to disrupt enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the U.S. Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways, in effect having the entire ocean available. Several different flying boats were adopted by the Navy, but the PBY was the most widely used and produced.
Although slow and ungainly, Catalinas distinguished themselves in World War II. Allied forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered for their role in rescuing downed airmen, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew downed over water. Catalina airmen called their aircraft the "cat" on combat missions and "Dumbo" in air-sea rescue service.
As American dominance in the Pacific Ocean began to face competition from Japan in the 1930s, the U.S. Navy contracted Consolidated, Martin and Douglas in October 1933 to build competing prototypes for a patrol flying boat. Naval doctrine of the 1930s and 1940s used flying boats in a wide variety of roles that today are handled by multiple special-purpose aircraft. The U.S. Navy had adopted the Consolidated P2Y and Martin P3M models for this role in 1931, but both aircraft were underpowered and hampered by inadequate range and limited payloads.
Consolidated and Douglas both delivered single prototypes of their new designs, the XP3Y-1 and XP3D-1, respectively. Consolidated's XP3Y-1 was an evolution of the XPY-1 design that had originally competed unsuccessfully for the P3M contract two years earlier and of the XP2Y design that the Navy had authorized for a limited production run. Although the Douglas aircraft was a good design, the Navy opted for Consolidated's because the projected cost was only $90,000 per aircraft.
Consolidated's XP3Y-1 design (company Model 28) had a parasol wing with external bracing struts, mounted on a pylon over the fuselage. Wingtip stabilizing floats were retractable in flight to form streamlined wingtips and had been licensed from the Saunders-Roe company. The two-step hull design was similar to that of the P2Y, but the Model 28 had a cantilever cruciform tail unit instead of a strut-braced twin tail. Cleaner aerodynamics gave the Model 28 better performance than earlier designs.
The prototype was powered by two 825 hp (615 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-54 Twin Wasp engines mounted on the wing’s leading edges. Armament comprised four .30 caliber Browning AN/M2 machine guns and up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs.
The XP3Y-1 had its maiden flight on 28 March 1935, after which it was transferred to the U.S. Navy for service trials. The XP3Y-1 was a significant performance improvement over previous patrol flying boats. The Navy requested further development in order to bring the aircraft into the category of patrol bomber, and in October 1935, the prototype was returned to Consolidated for further work, including installation of 900 hp (671 kW) R-1830-64 engines. For the redesignated XPBY-1, Consolidated introduced redesigned vertical tail surfaces which resolved a problem with the tail becoming submerged on takeoff, which had made takeoff impossible under some conditions. The XPBY-1 had its maiden flight on 19 May 1936, during which a record non-stop distance flight of 3,443 miles (5,541 km) was achieved.
The XPBY-1 was delivered to VP-11F in October 1936. The second squadron to be equipped was VP-12, which received the first of its aircraft in early 1937. The second production order was placed on 25 July 1936. Over the next three years, the Catalina design was gradually developed further and successive models introduced.
|Model||Production period and distinguishing features||Quantity|
|PBY-1||September 1936–June 1937
Original production model.
|PBY-2||May 1937–February 1938
Minor alterations to tail structure, hull reinforcements.
|PBY-3||November 1936–August 1938
Higher power engines.
|PBY-4||May 1938–June 1939
Higher power engines, propeller spinners, acrylic glass blisters over waist guns (some later units).
|PBY-5||September 1940–July 1943
Higher power engines (using higher octane fuel), discontinued use of propeller spinners, standardized waist gun blisters. Self-sealing fuel tanks introduced during production run.
|PBY-5A||October 1941–January 1945
Hydraulically actuated, retractable tricycle landing gear, with main gear design based on one from the 1920s designed by Leroy Grumman, for amphibious operation. Introduced tail gun position, replaced bow single gun position with bow "eyeball" turret equipped with twin .30 machine guns (some later units), improved armor, self-sealing fuel tanks.
|PBY-6A||January 1945–May 1945
Incorporated changes from PBN-1, including a taller vertical tail, increased wing strength for greater carrying capacity, new electrical system, standardized "eyeball" turret, and a radome over cockpit for radar.
* An estimated 4,051 Catalinas, Cansos, and GSTs of all versions were produced between June 1937 and May 1945 for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army Air Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard, Allied nations, and civilian customers.
The Naval Aircraft Factory made significant modifications to the PBY design, many of which would have significantly interrupted deliveries had they been incorporated on the Consolidated production lines. The new aircraft, officially known as the PBN-1 Nomad, had several differences from the basic PBY. The most obvious upgrades were to the bow, which was sharpened and extended by two feet, and to the tail, which was enlarged and featured a new shape. Other improvements included larger fuel tanks, increasing range by 50%, and stronger wings permitting a 2,000 pound (908 kg) increase in gross takeoff weight. An auxiliary power unit was installed, along with an improved electrical system, and the weapons were upgraded with continuous-feed mechanisms.
138 of the 156 PBN-1s produced served with the Soviet Navy. The remaining 18 were assigned to training units at NAS Whidbey Island and the Naval Air Facility in Newport, Rhode Island. Later, improvements found in the PBN such as the larger tail were incorporated into the amphibious PBY-6A.
Roles in World War II
Around 4,000 aircraft were built, and these operated in nearly all operational theatres of World War II. The Catalina served with distinction and played a prominent and invaluable role against the Japanese. This was especially true during the first year of the war in the Pacific, because the PBY and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress were the only aircraft available with the range to be effective in the Pacific.
Catalinas were the most extensively used ASW aircraft in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of the Second World War, and were also used in the Indian Ocean, flying from the Seychelles and from Ceylon. Their duties included escorting convoys to Murmansk. By 1943, U-boats were well-armed with anti-aircraft guns and two Victoria Crosses were won by Catalina pilots pressing home their attacks on U-boats in the face of heavy fire: John Cruickshank of the RAF, in 1944, against "U-347" (or U-361 depending on sources) and in the same year Flight Lt. David Hornell of the RCAF (posthumously) against the U-1225. Catalinas destroyed 40 U-boats but not without losses of their own. A Brazilian Catalina attacked and sank U-199 in Brazilian waters on 31 July 1943. Later, the aircraft was baptized as “Arará”, in memory of the merchant ship of that name which was sunk by another U-boat.
In their role as patrol aircraft, Catalinas participated in some of the most notable naval engagements of World War II. The aircraft's parasol wing and large waist blisters provided excellent visibility and combined with its long range and endurance, made it well suited for the task.
An RAF Coastal Command Catalina, piloted by Ensign Leonard B. Smith of the US Navy and flying out of Castle Archdale Flying boat base, Lower Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, located, at 10:30, on 26 May ca. some 690 nmi (1,280 km; 790 mi) northwest of Brest, the German battleship Bismarck, which was attempting to evade Royal Navy forces.[N 1] This sighting eventually led to the destruction of the German battleship.
An RCAF Canso flown by Squadron Leader L.J. Birchall foiled Japanese plans to destroy the Royal Navy's Indian Ocean fleet on 4 April 1942 when it detected the Japanese carrier fleet approaching Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Several squadrons of PBY-5As and -6As in the Pacific theater were specially modified to operate as night raiders. Outfitted with state-of-the-art magnetic anomaly detectors and painted flat black, these "Black Cats" attacked Japanese supply convoys at night. Catalinas were surprisingly successful and from August 1943 to January 1944, Black Cats sank 112,700 tons of merchant shipping, damaged 47,000 tons, and damaged 10 Japanese warships.[N 2]
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also operated Catalinas as night raiders, with four squadrons Nos. 11, 20, 42, and 43 laying mines from 23 April 1943 until July 1945 in the southwest Pacific deep in Japanese-held waters, bottling up ports and shipping routes and forcing ships into deeper waters to become targets for U.S. submarines; they tied up the major strategic ports such as Balikpapan which shipped 80% of Japanese oil supplies. In late 1944, their mining missions sometimes exceeded 20 hours in duration and were carried out from as low as 200 feet in the dark. Operations included trapping the Japanese fleet in Manila Bay in assistance of General MacArthur's landing at Mindoro in the Philippines. Australian Catalinas also operated out of Jinamoc in the Leyte Gulf, and mined ports on the Chinese coast from Hong Kong to as far north as Wenchow. The RAAF Catalinas regularly mounted nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, claiming the slogan "The First and the Furthest". Targets of these raids included a major base at Rabaul. RAAF aircrews, like their U.S. Navy counterparts, employed 'terror bombs', ranging from scrap metal and rocks to empty beer bottles with razor blades inserted into the necks, to produce high pitched screams as they fell, keeping Japanese soldiers awake and scrambling for cover.
Search and rescue
Catalinas were employed by every branch of the U.S. military as rescue aircraft. A PBY piloted by LCDR Adrian Marks (USN) rescued 56 sailors in high seas from the USS Indianapolis after the ship was sunk during World War II. When there was no more room inside, the crew tied sailors to the wings. Catalinas continued to function in this capacity for decades after the end of the war.
Early commercial use
Catalinas were also used for commercial air travel. The longest commercial flights (in terms of time aloft) ever made in aviation history were the Qantas flights flown weekly from 29 June 1943 through July 1945 over the Indian Ocean. Qantas offered non-stop service between Perth and Colombo, a distance of 3,592 nm (5,652 km). As the Catalina typically cruised at 110 knots, this took from 28 to 32 hours and was called the "flight of the double sunrise", since the passengers saw two sunrises during their non-stop journey. The flight was made in radio silence because of the possibility of Japanese attack and had a maximum payload of 1,000 lbs or three passengers plus 65 kg of military and diplomatic mail.
Post-World War II employment
An Australian PBY made the first trans-Pacific flight across the South Pacific between Australia and Chile in 1946, making numerous stops at islands along the way for refueling, meals, and overnight sleep of its crew.
With the end of the war, all of the flying boat versions of the Catalina were quickly retired from the U.S. Navy, but the amphibious versions remained in service for some years. The last Catalina in U.S. service was a PBY-6A operating with a Naval Reserve squadron, which was retired from use on 3 January 1957. The Catalina subsequently equipped the world's smaller armed services into the late 1960s in fairly substantial numbers.
The Brazilian Air Force flew Catalinas in naval air patrol missions against German submarines starting in 1943. The flying boats also carried out air mail deliveries. In 1948, a transport squadron was formed and equipped with PBY-5As converted to the role of amphibious transports. The 1st Air Transport Squadron (ETA-1) was based in the port city of Belem and flew Catalinas and C-47s until 1982. Catalinas were convenient for supplying military detachments scattered along the Amazon. They reached places that were otherwise accessible only by helicopters. The ETA-1 insignia was a winged turtle with the motto "Though slowly, I always get there". Today, the last Brazilian Catalina (a former RCAF one) is displayed at the Airspace Museum (MUSAL) in Rio de Janeiro.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau used a PBY-6A (N101CS) to support his diving expeditions. His second son, Philippe, was killed in an accident in this aircraft that occurred on the Tagus river near Lisbon. The Catalina nosed over during a high speed taxi run undertaken to check the hull for leakage following a water landing. The aircraft turned upside down, causing the fuselage to break behind the cockpit. The wing separated from the fuselage and the left engine broke off, penetrating the captain's side of the cockpit.
Paul Mantz converted an unknown number of surplus Catalinas to flying yachts at his Orange County California hangar in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Chilean Air Force (FACH) Captain Roberto Parragué, in his PBY Catalina FACH N° 405 called "Manu-Tara", which means Lucky Bird in the Rapanui language, undertook the first flight between Easter Island and the continent of South America (from Chile), as well as the first flight to Tahiti, making him a national hero of France as well as of Chile. The flight was authorized by the Chilean President in 1951, but a second flight he made in 1957 was not authorized, and he was dismissed from the Chilean Air Force.
Of the few dozen remaining airworthy Catalinas, the majority are in use as aerial firefighting aircraft. China Airlines, the official airline of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was founded with two Catalina amphibians.
Platforms are folded out and deployed from Catalinas for use in open ocean fishing and Mahi Mahi tracking in the Pacific Ocean.
The Catalina Affair is the name given to a Cold War incident in which a Swedish Air Force Catalina was shot down by Soviet fighters over the Baltic Sea in June 1952 while investigating the disappearance of a Swedish Douglas DC-3 (later found to have been shot down by a Soviet fighter while on a SIGINT mission; it was found in 2003 and raised 2004–2005).
- Prototype Model 28 flying boat later re-designated XPBY-1, one built (USN Bureau No. 9459). Later fitted with a 48-foot-diameter (15 m) ring to sweep magnetic sea mines. A 550 hp Ranger engine drove a generator to produce a magnetic field.
- Prototype version of the Model 28 for the United States Navy, a re-engined XP3Y-1 with two 900 hp R-1830-64 engines, one built.
- PBY-1 (Model 28-1)
- Initial production variant with two 900 hp R-1830-64 engines, 60 built.
- PBY-2 (Model 28-2)
- Equipment changes and improved performance, 50 built.
- PBY-3 (Model 28-3)
- Powered by two 1,000 hp R-1830-66 engines, 66 built.
- PBY-4 (Model 28-4)
- Powered by two 1,050 hp R-1830-72 engines, 33 built (including one initial as a XPBY-4 which later became the XPBY-5A).
- PBY-5 (Model 28-5)
- Either two 1,200 hp R-1830-82 or -92 engines and provision for extra fuel tanks (with partial self-sealing protection). 683 built (plus one built at New Orleans), some aircraft to the RAF as the Catalina IVA and one to the United States Coast Guard. The PBY-5 was also built in the Soviet Union as the GST.
- One PBY-4 converted into an amphibian and first flown in November 1939.
- PBY-5A (Model 28-5A)
- Amphibious version of the PBY-5 with two 1,200 hp R-1830-92 engines, first batch (of 124) had one 0.3in bow gun, the remainder had two bow guns; 803 built including diversions to the United States Army Air Corps, the RAF (as the Catalina IIIA) and one to the United States Coast Guard.
- Amphibious version with two 1,200 hp R-1830-92 engines and a taller fin and rudder. Radar scanner fitted above cockpit and two 0.5 in nose guns; 175 built including 21 transferred to the Soviet Navy.
- One PBY-6A used by the United States Coast Guard as a staff transport.
- Boeing built version of the PBY-5 but having a taller fin of the PBN-1, 67 built most supplied to the RAF as the Catalina VI.
- Boeing-Canada built PBYs for the RAF and RCAF from 1939.
- Naval Aircraft Factory built version of the PBY-5 with major modification including a 2ft bow extension, modified hull lines with a modified step, re-designed wingtip floats and tail surfaces and a revised electrical system. A total of 155 were built for delivery to the RAF as the Catalina V although 138 were loaned to the Soviet Navy
- Canadian Vickers built version of the PBY-5A, 380 built including 150 to the Royal Canadian Air Force as the Canso-A and the rest to the USAAF as the OA-10A.
- United States Army Air Forces designation for PBY-5A, 105 built; 58 aircraft survivors re-designated A-10 in 1948.
- USAAF designation of Canadian Vickers-built version of the PBV-1, 230 built. Survivors re-designated A-10A in 1948. Three additional aircraft from Navy in 1949 as A-10As.
- USAAF designation of PBY-6A, 75 built. Re-designated A-10B in 1948.
- Catalina I
- Direct purchase aircraft for the Royal Air Force, same as the PBY-5 with six 0.303 in guns (one in bow, four in waist blisters and one aft of the hull step) and powered by two 1,200 hp R-1830-S1C3-G engines, 109 built.
- Catalina IA
- Operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force as the Canso, 14 built.
- Catalina IB
- Lend-lease PBY-5Bs for the RAF, 225 aircraft built.
- Catalina II
- Equipment changes, six built.
- Catalina IIA
- Vickers-Canada built Catalina II for the RAF, 50 built.
- Catalina IIIA
- Former U.S. Navy PBY-5As used by the RAF on the North Atlantic Ferry Service, 12 aircraft.
- Catalina IVA
- Lend-lease PBY-5s for the RAF, 93 aircraft.
- Catalina IVB
- Lend-lease PB2B-1s for the RAF, some to the Royal Australian Air Force.
- Catalina VI
- Lend-lease PB2B-2s for the RAF, some to the RAAF.
- Soviet built version of the PBY-5 ("Gydro Samoliot Transportnyi").
Data from Encyclopedia of World Air Power Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II Handbook of Erection and Maintenance Instructions for Navy Model PBY-5 and PBY-5A Airplanes. and Quest for Performance
- Crew: 10 — pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners, ventral gunner
- Length: 63 ft 10 7/16 in (19.46 m)
- Wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m)
- Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.15 m)
- Wing area: 1,400 ft² (130 m²)
- Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW each) each
- Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0309
- Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h)
- Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km)
- Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
- Wing loading: 25.3 lb/ft² (123.6 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.034 hp/lb (0.056 kW/kg)
- Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.9
- 3× .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns (two in nose turret, one in ventral hatch at tail)
- 2× .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each waist blister)
- 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs or depth charges; torpedo racks were also available
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of aircraft of World War II
- List of Consolidated PBY Catalina survivors
- List of flying boats
- List of PBY Catalina operators
- Smith was one of nine American officers assigned to the RAF as special observers.
- It was hazardous, however; before an attack, one crew messaged, "Please inform next of kin."
- Legg 2002, p. 285.
- Legg, David (30 March 2013) "Re: [PBY] A retrospective on PBY bows" Yahoo groups: PBY Catalina / Canso. Retrieved: 30 March 2013
- Weathered, William W. "Comment and Discussion". United States Naval Institute Proceedings, October 1968.
- Cacutt 1989, pp. 187–194.
- Bridgeman 1946, p. 218.
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- Miller, p. 162.
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- Gaunt and Cleeworth 2000.
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- Hayward, John T., VADM USN. "Comment and Discussion" United States Naval Institute Proceedings, August 1978, p. 24.
- Gunston, Bill, ed. Encyclopedia of World Air Power. London: Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1981. ISBN 0-517-53754-0.
- Handbook of Erection and Maintenance Instructions for Navy Model PBY-5 and PBY-5A Airplanes.
- Loftin, L.K. Jr. "Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft." NASA SP-468. Retrieved: 18 June 2010.
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- Knott, Richard C. Black Cat Raiders of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: US Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55750-471-7.
- Legg, David. Consolidated PBY Catalina: The Peacetime Record. Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55750-245-5.
- Miller, Nathan (1997). War at Sea: A Naval History of World War II. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511038-8.
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- Wagner, Ray. The Story of the PBY Catalina (Aero Biographies Volume 1). San Diego, California: Flight Classics, 1972. ISBN 978-0-911721-30-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: PBY Catalina|
- (1945) AN 01-5M-3 Handbook of Structural Repair for Navy Models PBY-5, PBY-5A , PBY-6A Army Model OA-10 Airplanes
- Catalina Aircraft Trust
- Popular Mechanics, February 1943, "Here Comes The Cats" very large and detailed article
- Picture of PH-PBY, a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
- PBY Catalina Foundation
- PBY Catalina International Association
- PBY Memorial Association
- Second Emergency Rescue Squadron Memorial Page
- Lt. Nathan Gordon, PBY pilot and Medal of Honor recipient
- Catalina Group of New Zealand
- Black Cats: U.S. Navy PBY Catalinas fighting in the Pacific during WWII
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- The Catalina Society (Plane Sailing) UK
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- A film clip "Story of the Black Cats", a U.S. Navy film is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The Catalina P9630 pictured at the MAEE, Felixstowe