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Military Aircraft Index



PBY Catalina Flying Boat Military Aircraft

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat designed in the 1930's by Isaac M. Laddon. The PBY Catalina first flew in 1933 and entered service with the US Navy in 1936, it served with numerous allied military forces during WW2 in maritime patrol work in both ASW and rescue roles. When the US Navy retired it's Catalinas in 1957 3,431 (2029 PBY-5 flying boats and 1402 PBY-5A amphibians) had been produced in a nine year period, a significant number of PBY Catalina aircraft having been produced as the Canso which were built in Canada under licence by Boeing, Vickers and Canadair.

PBY Catalina Flying Boat Military Aircraft


The RAF who gave the Consolidated PBY it's popular name "Catalina", operated nearly as many amphibians as it did the flying boat variants, the amphibian was more practical to use in the coastal  defence role where ease of use was more important than range or endurance, the flying boat version allowed extended protection to be given to the Atlantic convoys from German U-boat wolf-packs.


The Consolidated PBY Catalina was built as both a flying boat (PBY-5) and an amphibian (PBY-5A) as pictured on this page, although the ability to land on on a runway as well as water was desirable, the increase in weight resulted in reduced range, endurance, and speed seriously affected the usefulness of a long range maritime patrol bomber.

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Armament:

  • Three .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns
  • Twin .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns
  • 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs (or)
  • 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of depth charges or torpedo

Range and Endurance

It is interesting to note that the flight mechanic was seated in the central pylon supporting the wing, the wing contained massive fuel tanks, these combined with the ability to fly on one engine only running at optimum performance, rather than having both of it's engines throttled back and consequently running inefficiently, resulted in the Consolidated PBY Catalinas legendary range and endurance. The wing-tip floats were made retractable so that they extended the wing, improving the wings lifting efficiently without increasing air drag.

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Specifications:
  • Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight
    mechanic, radioman, navigator and two waist gunners
  • 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)
  • Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
  • Engines: Twin 1,200 hp (895 kW each) Pratt &
    Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines
  • Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 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)

Consolidated PBY Catalina cockpit

Consolidated PBY Catalina cockpit


Why the PBY?

The initials PBY reflected the intended use of the Catalina as a patrol bomber, the Y was the manufacturer designation letter allocated to Consolidated Aircraft under the 1922 US Navy aircraft designation system. In civilian use after WW2 and into the 21st Century many PBY Catalinas served faithfully as water bombers fighting forest fires in North America.

PBY Catalina

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