The Consolidated PBY Catalina

United States of America
United States of America

side view front view under view

The most famous water aircraft of World War 2, the Cataline was a welcome sight by downed pilots waiting for rescue in the water. Not only was it used extensively as a sea-air rescue aircraft, but also on striking duties, (anti submarine) patrols, cargo hauling etc etc. Anything around the water, and they did it.

Not only was it one of the most versatile aircraft in it's class, but also the one produced in the largest numbers, over a period of 10 years, on no less than 6 production lines. The idea was first born in 1933, when Consolidated just launched their new flying boat (Model 9, P2Y). Feeling that there must be more to it, the engineers of Consolidated took to work, and produced an elegant flying boat that would make fame in the years to come.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Consolidated PBY Catalina in full flight
Consolidated PBY Catalina in full flight

 

Technical data on the Consolidated PBY-5A
Powerplant 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp turbosupercharged radials, rated at 1200 hp (894.59 kW) each Role during war
  • U-boat Destroyer
  • Maritime/Coastal patrol reconnaissance Bomber
  • Transport
  • Sea-Air rescue Aircraft
Length 63 ft 10.5 inch Height 20 ft 2 inch
Empty weight 17526 lb Operational weight 34000 lb max
Wing Span 104 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 7.76
Wing Area 1400 sq ft Service ceiling 14700 ft
Maximum speed 179 mph at 7000 ft Cruising speed 107 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 10,000 ft in 19 min 18 sec Range 2545 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 1,457 Imp gal (1,750 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.3 inch trainable forward-firing in nose turret
  • 1 × 0.3 inch trainable rearward-firing in ventral tunnel
  • 2 × 0.50 inch trainable guns, 1 in each "blister" beam positions
Cannons -
Bomb load up to 4,500 lb on four hardpoint: the 2 innerpoints each rated at 2,500 lb, the 2 outer points rated at 1,000 lb each. General load consists of:
  • 4 × 1,000 lb or 500 lb bombs, or
  • 12 × 100 lb bombs, or
  • 4 × 650 lb, 450 lb, or 325 lb depth charges
Torpedoes/rockets In stead of bomb load 2 × 2,167 lb Mk 13-2 torpedoes
Crew 9: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio/radar operator, flight engineer, bombardier/gunner, 3 gunners Naval or ground based Ground and Naval
First flight (prototype) 20 March 1935 Operational Service October 1936 - June 1982
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft Company Number produced 3290 total, 803 this version
Metric system
Length 19.47 m Height 6.15 m
Empty weight 7950 kg Operational weight 15422 kg max
Wing Span 31.7 m Wing Aspect ratio 7.76
Wing Area 130.06 m² Service ceiling 4481 m
Maximum speed 288 km/h at 2134 m Cruising speed 172 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 3050 m in 19 min 18 sec Range 4096 km max
Fuel capacity internal 6624 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7.62 mm trainable forward-firing in nose turret
  • 1 × 7.62 mm trainable rearward-firing in ventral tunnel
  • 2 × 12.7 mm trainable guns, 1 in each "blister" beam positions
Cannons -
Bomb load up to 2041 kg on four hardpoint: the 2 innerpoints each rated at 1134 kg, the 2 outer points rated at 454 kg each. General load consists of:
  • 4 × 454 kg or 227 kg bombs, or
  • 12 × 45 kg bombs, or
  • 4 × 295 kg, 294 kg, or 147 kg depth charges
Torpedoes/rockets In stead of bomb load 2 × 983 kg Mk 13-2 torpedoes

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Consolidated PBY  Catalina
Consolidated PBY-1 (Model 28) When first confronted with the Model 28 the US navy was impressed. The boat showed remarkable performance and endurance, and the heavy load it could carry was very promissing. First they orderen 1 prototype, designating it XP3Y-1. As the designations shows, the results of the tests were so satisfactory that the US Navy decided it could not olny perform the task of patrol aircraft, but also as a patrol bomber. Following the trials was an order for 60 PBY-1's, as it was redesignated now. The prototype was later rebuilt to PBY-1 standard. In October 1935 the concept proved it's worth by flying non-stop over a distance of 3,443 miles (5541 km) in just under 35 hours.
The PBY-1 featured an enclosed cockpit, de-icing boots on all edges of flying surfaces, two hardpoints capable of carrying torpedoes, and the full armament (all 0.30 inch guns, the waist positions were still sliding dorsal hatches). Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radials rated at 900 hp (670 kW) each powered the boat
Number built: 60
Consolidated PBY-2 Some small improvements were incorporated in this version: 4 underwing hardpoints each rated for 1000 lb (454 kg). The waist guns were changed to 0.50 inch (12,7mm) guns
Number built: 50
Consolidated PBY-3 Same as the PBY-2, except for the powerplants: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp radials rated at 1000 hp (745 kW) each
Number built: 66
Consolidated PBY-4 Same as the PBY-3, except for 3 changes:
  • the engines were uprated to 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-72 Twin Wasp radials, rated at 1050 hp (782 kW) each
  • The propellers had smaller spinners
  • The waist gun positions received bulged transparencies offering improved vision (blisters). These blisters would be fitted on all sunsequent models

Number built: 33
Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina Because the Model 29 Coronado was not ready yet, the US navy decided to order more Catalina's to fill the need for more patrol aircraft in an attempt to avoid war. Also some European countries were looking for patrol bomber flying boats. As a result the PBY-4 was uprated once more, this time to 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-82 Twin Wasp radials rated at 1200 hp (895 kW) each, later still replaced by 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radials, rated at 1200 hp (895 kW) each (more suited for a higher cruising altitude). This was the first aircraft to spot hostile Japanese forces (a midget submarine) in the neighbourhood of Pearl Harbor, 1 hour before the attack begun
Number built: 808 at least
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina This version was the first to become amphibian (with weels) with a retactable tricycle landing gear. Apart from that did the 5A receive some armor protection for the crew, and was the single 0.30 inch (7.62 mm) gun in the nose replaced by a double 0.30 inch (7.62 mm) gun
Number built: 803
Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina The definitive version of the US built Catalina, this version had it's bow guns replaced by 2 × 0.50 inch (12.7 mm) brownings, and came fitted with an air-to-surface radar. After the war almost all flying boats were retired, save a number of Catalinas. The remainder (also other models) stayed in service, and were later passed on to American allies in South America where some aircraft remained in service until 1982
Number built: 185
Naval Aircraft Factory PBN-1 Nomad The NAF had been working on an improved design of the Catalina, inclucind, improved electrical system, better aero- and hydro dynamic characteristics, stronger structure, a longer bow, redesigned stabilizing float/wingtip, more internal fuel, a bigger vertical tail unit, and some other small stuff
Number built: 155
Consolidated OA-10 This designation was the USAAF designation given to transferred PBY-5A's from the Navy to the USAAF
Number transferred: 58
Consolidated OA-10A Designation of the USAAF for Canadian Vickers built PBV-1A's (which were in fact PBY-5A's)
Number built: 252
Consolidated OA-10B PBY-6A's transferred form the US Navy to the USAAF
Number transferred: 75
Consolidated Catalina Mk I for the RAF Based on the PBY-5, the RAF ordered some Catalinas, which were adopted in a couple of ways. The machineguns were all 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) Vickers guns, 1 in the nose and ventral tunnel each, 2 in the blister positions each. It had more armor, and the engines were 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3-G Twin Wasp radials, rated 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
Number built: 109
Consolidated Catalina Mk IA for the RAF The RAF version (and designation) of the PBY-5A
Number built: 14
Consolidated Catalina Mk IB for the RAF Same as the PBY-5B, but adopted for RAF
Number built: 225
Consolidated Catalina Mk II for the RAF Same as the Mk I, except minor adjustments to equipment
Number built: 6
Consolidated Catalina Mk IIA for the RAF Initially ordered for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), but delivered to the RAF
Number built: 36
Consolidated Catalina Mk IIIA for the RAF Adopted for and used as personel transport to move RAF personel and aircrew to the States to collect and ferry aircraft to the UK
Number built: 12
Consolidated Catalina Mk IVA for the RAF PBY-5 boats under the Lend-Lease pact, destined for the RAF
Number built: 97
Consolidated Catalina GR.Mk IVB for the RAF PB2B-1 aircraft for the RAF
Number built: 200
Consolidated Catalina ASR.Mk IVB for the RAF Some of the GR.Mk IVB's were adopted for Air Sea rescues, and were redesignated to ASR.Mk IVB
Redesignated aircraft
Consolidated Catalina GR.Mk VI for the RAF PB2B-2 aircraft for the RAF
Number built: 61
Boeing Canada Canso A/Vickers Canada Canso A This was the PBY-5A built by Boeing and Vickers in Canada under license
Number built: 210
Vickers Canada PBV-1A This was the PBY-5A built by Vickers in Canada under license, later renamed OA-10
Boeing Canada PB2B-1 Catalina PBY-5 built in Canada
Number built: 40
Boeing Canada PB2B-2 Catalina PBY-6 built in Canada
Number built: 6
Amtorg GST Because of the need for maritime patrol aircraft, the fact that Russia had a low technical state for those aircraft, and the long supply lines forced the decision to built them under license. After evaluaing several foreign models the choice fell on the Consolidated Model 28. GST (Gidro Samolyet Transportnyi) was tasked to built these aircraft. Bacause of the fact that Russia couldn't copy all production lines and tools the Catalina was adapted to Russian needs and standards. The Amtorg GST was powered by two Tumanskii M-87 or M87A radial, rated at 950 hp (708 kW), and was based on the PBY-1 model
Number built: 150+ ?,1000+ ?. Sources vary

Remarks:

A great example of evolution in an aircraft, the Catalina saw a great number of tasks to perform, and reached a high level of sophistication in later stages, like an optical bomb-sight, optical gunsights, air-to-surface radar, etc.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

 

© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 9/20/00