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Catalina PBY : The Most Beautiful Sight of a Stranded Crew in World War 2

Crew of an Australian Catalina flying boat at Nightcliff

Catalina PBY For so many lost and stranded aircrew and sailors, the “Cat” was the most beautiful sight on the planet.


The PBY-5A Catalina, or “Cat” is an amphibious aircraft. The Consolidated PBY Catalina is a flying boat built by Boeing that was produced in the 1930s and 1940s. The Royal Air Force and US Army and US Navy would use them extensively during and after World War 2. 

They were a genuine-life saver, but also a fierce U-boat killer.

Catalina G-AGFM Altair Star on the Swan River at Crawley

A total of 828 aircraft of the PBY-5A variant were produced in the USA between 1941 and 1945, another 3,200 would be produced after the war!

The plane was considered a triple-70. She would take off at 70mph land at 70mph and cruise at 70mph! 

There are about 14 still in operation worldwide. Down from 50 just a few years ago, of course getting spare parts is not easy.

Aviation machinist’s mates work on the starboard engine of a PBY-5A, from VP-31, at an East Coast naval air station, circa 1942.  (U.S. Navy)

Consolidated PBY Catalina drawings

This photo of a PBY Catalina squadron was taken while on a mission to torpedo Japanese vessels near Kiska Island in June 1942. The weather turned, and visibility was so poor that it was impossible to maintain formation, and the mission was aborted. (Photo by Robert R. Larson)

The U.S. escort carrier USS Thetis Bay (CVE-90) en route to NAS Alameda, California with a deck load of war-weary planes in 1944. The planes visible on deck include Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats. In addition, the carrier has 18 Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters, and a Grumman J2F “Duck” amphibious biplane on it. 

Furthermore, in WW2 the engineer’s position was located in the mounting between the wing and the fuselage-probably the noisiest place ever.
Later versions the position moved behind the pilots.
PBY riding at sea anchor.
1953, Alaska USCG Cutter Northwind gets a mail pick up via tail hook

VH-BRI CAT that sank at Hayman Island in July 1962. The previous landing had been a heavy one that had loosened several rivets. Water entered the hull and the aircraft settled so that only its wings were on the water’s surface by morning.

They were used as firefighting planes due to their unique design that made them perfectly fitted for the job of transporting large amounts of water.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Government Forest Fire Fleet.

The last military PBYs would serve until the 1980s. 

Catalina PBY