PBY Catalina was an American and Canadian-built flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s. PB stands for Patrol Bomber, with Y being Consolidated Aircraft’s manufacturer identification. It could be equipped with depth charges, bombs, torpedoes, and .50 caliber machine guns and was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. The PBY Catalina was the most successful flying boat ever produced. First flown in March 1935, they were in production for over ten years and were designed and built by the American aircraft manufacturers, Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. The Catalina in RAAF service, despite its vulnerability due to lack of speed, was a front line aircraft effectively taking the fight to the Japanese through its long distance mine laying flights.

Catalina A24-70, piloted by Flt. Lieut. David Joyce.
Note twin guns at front and Ken Chessell discernible in Port Blister.
Photo taken over Darwin Harbour - 26.6.1944
A25-70 was blown ashore and wrecked, Broome, W.A. October, 1945.

The PBY was the first US aircraft to carry radar and fulfilled diverse missions including torpedo-bomber, transport and glider tug. Famous were the "Black Cat" Catalina’s which, painted matt black, roamed the western Pacific from December 1942 finding Japanese ships by radar at night and picking Allied survivors from ships and aircraft in boats and dinghies. RAAF Catalinas were famous for their precision laying of mines in enemy water ways and harbors. In this role it performed a substantial contribution towards victory for the Allies in the Pacific War by blockading essential oil ports and closing the "back streets" to Japan.

About 3300 Catalinas were produced and several are still flying today as water bombers, flying geological surveys, carrying people, supplies and equipment to inaccessible areas and even flying sportsmen into remote areas for hunting and fishing.

Normal Crew of Seven to Nine
Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Engines
Twin-row 14 cylinder Air-cooled Radials
1,200 hp @ 2,700 rpm
Five .50 calibre Machine Guns
Four 325 lb (147Kg) Depth-charges or
Two Mark XIII Torpedoes or
Four 500 (227)  or 1,000 lb (454 Kg) Bombs
Max. Speed 178 mph (286 kph) @ 7,000 feet (2134 m)
Cruise Speed 113 mph (182 kph)
Initial Climb Rate 650 ft/min (198 m/min)
Service Ceiling 16,200 ft (4938 m)
Length 63' 6" (19.35 m)
Height 22' 6"  (6.85 m)
Wing Span 104' (31.69 m)
Max. Weight 34,450 lbs (15,626 Kg)
Empty Weight 21,000 lbs (9525 Kg)
Max. Fuel 1,750 US gallons (6624 Lt)
Maximum Range 2,535 miles (4079 Km)


The Catalina is a twin-engine high winged amphibious monoplane with retractable wing tip floats. It features an almost cantilevered wing mounted above a shallow but broad hull on a central pylon housing the flight engineer. The wing has a rectangular centre section and tapered outer panels, all of stressed-skin all-metal construction, though the ailerons and trailing edges are fabric-skinned. A unique feature is the wing-tip floats, which are mounted on pivoted frames, which can be retracted electrically so that in flight the floats form the wingtips. The hull is also all-metal, with a broad semicircular upper surface.

The bow has a mooring compartment and transparent sighting window with a roller blind giving seawater protection. A turret all-round window is fitted in the upper bow. The two pilots sit side-by-side in a wide cockpit with large windows all round. Left and right gunner stations comprise blister windows on the waist of the hull behind the wing. The tail is of a tall design with the horizontal tail mounted well up the single fin. The power plant comprises a pair of two-row Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engines neatly cowled on the centre section with cooling gills and driving Hamilton variable-pitch propellers.

The PBY was one of the first US aircraft to carry radar. At first this was a metric wave radar with arrays of dipole antennas on the wings, and later a centimetric radar in a fairing on top of the cockpit. A Leigh light was installed under the wing.