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A24 Consolidated PBY Catalina

The prototype XPBY-1 first flew in 1935 and the PBY-1 entered United States Navy service in 1936. Progressive developments followed, and in 1939 the PBY-4 appeared with large blister gun-turrets on the fuselage sides. In 1940, the PBY-5 version was ordered for the RAAF as the Catalina, a name derived from the island near the consolidated factory at San Diego. The flying-boat was already familiar in Australia, as P.G. Taylor had used the civilian PBY, named 'Guba', in 1939 to survey the alternative Indian Ocean route.

RAAF Catalinas were ferried across the Pacific by a combination of Qantas and RAAF crews and the first aircraft, A24-1, was accepted on 5 February 1941, and the last, A24-386, on 3 September 1945. In all, 168 Catalinas operated under the following serials: A24-1/114, A24-200/206, A24-300/309, and A24-350/386. These aircraft include Mks I and II (PBY-5 flying boats), Mk III (PBY-5A amphibians) and the high-tail, radome-fitted Mk IV and Mk VI (Boeing-built PB2B-1, -2). One exception was A24-28 which arrived on 5  June 1942 as a Dutch East Indies PBY-3 with sliding gun-panels, and was modified to PBY-5 standard with blister-turrets in 1944.

With their long range and endurance, the Catalinas established an impressive war record and operated with Nos 11, 20, 42, 43 Squadrons, Nos 6 and 8 Communications Units, and Nos 111, 112, 113 Air-Sea Rescue Flights.

Post war, one PBY-5A was attached to the Aeronautical Research and Development Unit for Jet-Assisted Take-Off experiments, and in 1951, A24-385 was modified as 'Frigate Bird II' for Sir Gordon Taylor's South American survey flight.

Finally, in 1952, the last Catalinas departed from RAAF Base Rathmines, which had been their main base for 12 years.

TECHNICAL DATA: Catalina Mk II – PBY-5 flying boat


General reconnaissance flying boat with 8 or 9 crew. All metal, stressed-skin construction.


Two 1,200 hp Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830 radial engines.


Span 31.70 m (104 ft); length 10.45 m (63 ft 10 in); height 5.65 m (18 ft 10 in).


Empty 7950 kg (17 526 lb); loaded 15 422 kg (34 000 lb).


Max speed 315 km/h (170 kt); cruising speed 188 km/h (102 kt); initial climb 201 m (660 ft)/min; range 4989 km (2694 nm); service ceiling 18,100 ft (5517 m).


Two 0.303" machine guns in bow turret, two 0.5" machine guns in each side blister, plus one 0.303 gun in central position aft of step; bomb load, 1814 kg (4,000 lb). Back to top

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