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The Consolidated PBY Catalina was a large flying boat used by the United States and her allies during World War II.


Known to its manufacturer as the Consolidated Model 28,[1] the PBY had dual 900 hp Whitney R-1830-64 engines that could propel the Catalina at speeds of up to 286 km/h and a crew that varied from seven to nine. Armaments included two fixed 20mm forward firing cannons, a twin 'bug-eye' cannon in the nose, two 50. cal MGs in waist blister sockets, a 30. cal MG operable by opening the back hatch and, depending on the mission and aircraft model, 454kg of bombs loaded in bomb racks on the wing.

The Catalina was also one of the first U.S. aircraft to have radar installed.[2]

Development and Testing

The PBY was initially developed in response to a 1933 United States Navy requirement for a new long range flying boat, that was not tied to a carrier, for patrol duties, to replace the Consolidated P2Y. Isaac M. Leddon, the seaplane enginner and Consolidated director who had designed the P2Y, decided to meet the requirement with a cleaned up version of the P2Y. Designated XP3Y, the new aircraft featured an almost cantilever stressed skin wing, consisting of rectangular centre panel with tapered outer panels. These featured retractable wingtip floats mounted on pivoted frames, allowing them to serve as wingtips during flight. The wing was mounted above the shallow but broad single deck hull on a central pylon which contained space for the flight engineer.[1]


United States of America

Great Britain

Britain first acquired the PBY Catalina when the British Purchasing Commission bought a single Model 28-5, which arrived in Britain during July 1939, in order to evaluate US hull design, [3] operating with British Serial P9630.[1] Following the loss of this aircraft in February 1940, when it crashed and sank at Dumbarton, a Model 28-3 was acquired as a replacement, serving briefly with 209 Squadron from October to December 1940 before being passed to BOAC. [N 1]

Soviet Union

The first Catalina used by the Russians was the original Guba (NC777), which the Russians acquired after NC777's non stop San Diego-New York flight in June 1937. Purchased to search for the aviator Sigismund Levanevsky, who had gone missing in the Arctic, Guba was eventually lost to the guns of a U-boat at Novaya Zemlya in July 1942.

The favorable impression left by Guba prompted the Russians to order three more Catalinas, to be powered by Wright Cyclone R-1820-G3 engines. The first was assembled and flown at San Diego, while the other two were assembled at Taganrog near Rostov. These served as pattern aircraft for the licensed GST version, with later examples having the more powerful M-87 in place of the original M-62 engines.[4]



  1. Originally named Gabu II, this aircraft was purchased from the explorer Dr Richard Archbold, ending it's days on mooring trials with Saunders-Roe, before being lost in a gale at Pwllheli, Wales in 1944.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 62 Sheet 1 (World Military Aircraft: Consolidated PBY Catalina - Multi role Patrol Boat)
  2. Catalina page on U Boat Net
  3. WAIF File 62 Sheet 3 (World Military Aircraft: Consolidated PBY Catalina - RAF Service)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Aeroplane Magazine Database section Jan 2008 (Consolidated Catalina) Page 78

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