Consolidated PBY Catalina

Consolidated PBY Catalina, was the most used flying boat of all components of the US Armed Forces during the Second World War. This RCAF-like Canso was used as an effective weapon in the anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue missions, ship protection, and cargo transportation during this world’s greatest conflict. Since it was a reliable machine with a large range and load, the last piece was removed from the active military service until 1980. For these advantages it is still used in many countries of the world as a water bomber.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the US Navy announced a seagoing patrol competition. As early as 1931, the Navy adopted the first designs of machines such as Consolidated P2Y and Martin P3M. Unfortunately, both aircraft designs were heavily under-dimensioned with insufficient reach and limited cost, so US NAVY returned to companies for reworking. Two years later, the two companies introduced their new prototypes, and although Douglas’s design was at least as good, the Navy finally elected the Consolidated version. The decisive factor that eventually determined the winner in this competition was the assumed purchase price for the aircraft.

The prototype, referred to as XP3Y-1 (or model 28), was a top-hat with external metal struts that powered two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-54 star-engines. Retractable floating stabilizers for the machine were edited by the British company Saundres-Roe, which was later servicing the machines delivered by the Royal Air Force. From the original construction of twin tail surfaces stiffened by struts, it was dropped because of the problem of immersion on the water. Thanks to a cleaner aerodynamic look, model 28 was much better in the tests than the original design. Armed with four Browning AN / M2 7.6 mm machine guns and carrying up to 910kg of bombs.

Consolidated XP3Y-1 took off for the first time on 28. March 1935, and was then handed over to the US Navy for a service study. In October of the same year, the prototype was returned with a request to install the more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 engines and to make other minor changes. The newly-modified model XPBY-1 once again took off on the test flight on 19 May 1936, overtaking a distance of 5,541 km. Over the next three years, the design has been further developed and presented with new, but currently also produced models.

In November 1939, the amphibian version of this aircraft, dubbed XPBY-5A, was first launched into the air. This modified version of the PBY-4 had a hydraulically-operated three-wheeled retractable chassis based on the design of aviation engineer and test pilot Leroy Grumman. A 7.62 mm browning machine gun was mounted in the rear guard, glazed “shot” was equipped with machine guns 12.7 mm caliber, the whole plane had overall better armor and self-sealing fuel tank.

PBN-1 Nomad

In February 1943, Naval Aicraft Factory came up with significant innovations in the PBY-5 design, many of which would significantly inhibit or completely interrupt deliveries to end users if Consolidated incorporated it into its production program. Compared to the base type, this airplane called PBN-1 Nomad had sharper torso lines that had been extended in some places to create a whole new shape. In addition, he had larger fuel tanks, the installation of which increased the flight range of the machine by 50% and stronger wings, which raised a gross takeoff weight of 908 kg. An auxiliary propulsion unit was also assembled together with an improved electrical system and weapons with a modernized charging system.

Training units from the naval air base on Whidbey Island (Washington State) and the Newport Marine Airport (Rhode Island State) used 18 of these machines, the remaining produced airplanes served with the Soviet Navy. Some improvements made to this type were later used in the PBS-6A variant of the Consolidated version.


The Soviet Union also showed interest in the production of the PBY-5 version, where three model aircraft were dispatched, together with the Consolidated team of engineers who helped establish their production facilities. The GST (Gydro Samoliot Transportnyi) licensed aircraft initially installed sets of two Shvetsov M-25 star-shaped engines, later replaced by Shvetsov M-62 radial versions of 671-746 kW.


Labeling of the PBY letters in the name of this machine originated during the Second World War, when the US Armed Forces used codenames for military aircraft. The first two letters indicate the primary use of Patrol Bomber and the third letter Y of the Consolidated Aircraft. However, these seaplanes were also produced by Canadian Vickers (PBV), Boeing Canada (eg PB2B or Boeing PBB) or Naval Aircraft Factory (PBN). The name Catalina originated at the Royal Air Force according to British tradition, naming seaplanes and amphibious aircraft in port cities. The same tradition was held by the Royal Canadian Air Force when it chose the lesser-known Canso name. This naming took over US Navy in 1942, while the USAF used only the OA-10 code during the war. During the Pacific War, these aircraft were painted all over black and used for night flights in battles against the Japanese. So many US Navy pilots have begun to nick the Black Cats. These aircraft were also used during rescue missions during this conflict, where it was soon known under the command of Dumbo.

Post-war conversions

After the war, various rebuilds of these amphibious aircraft gradually emerged. The first renowned rebuilding in the early 1950s was the so-called flying yachts rebuilt by the famous racing pilot and Hollywood consultant Paul Mantz from several surplus military machines. Similarly remarkable reconstruction was carried out in the late 1960s by an aviator, inventor and engineer of Dr. Biomedicine. Forrest Bird. This was the Psy-5A Canso, which had a reinforced wing supplemented by a pair of Lycoming GSO-480-B2D6 engines. Although the machine was much better on the water and had higher cruising speeds, it also exceeded the maximum weight (27,000 lb) that the American Army considered to be safe with its 29,000 lb.

The last known rebuilding made at about the same time as Bird’s Innovator was an airplane rebuilt by Steward-Davis International Inc. The original version of the PBY-5A, dubbed the Steward-Davis Super Catalina, has been upgraded to the Wright Cyclone R-2600, a larger square-shaped rudder and many other enhancements.




  • XP3Y-1
  • XPBY-1
  • PBY-1
  • PBY-2
  • PBY-3
  • PBY-4
  • PBY-5
  • PBY-5A
  • PBY-6A

Derived types:

  • GST
  • Bird Innovator
  • Super Catalina
  • Avalon Turbo Canso
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft Corporation
  • 2 pilots
  • onboard engineer
  • radio operator
  • radar operator
  • navigator
  • 4 shooters
Airplane type Highway
Engine 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92
Engine power 2 x 895 kW
  • travel 201 km/h
  • maximum 314 km/h
Length 19,46 m
Span 31,70 m
Height 6,15 m
Wing area 130 m²
  • empty 9 485 kg
  • takeoff 16 066 kg
Available 4 000 m
Flying range 4 030 km
Conventional weapons
  • 3 x machine gun Browning caliber 7,62 mm
  • 2 x machine gun Browning caliber 12,7 mm
Capacity of bombs  1 814 kg