The PBY Catalina aircraft was used heavily in World War II as a defense against submarines and as convoy escorts, search and rescue aircraft, transports, and patrol bombers. Its versatility and long-range capability made it invaluable. It could be fitted just as easily with depth charges or bombs, torpedoes, or other ordnance. Many thousands of Allied personnel owe their lives to the PBY Catalina because of its ability to quickly convert into a rescue aircraft. The PBY crewmen were well-known for their daring and cool composure under enemy fire and their willingness to risk their lives to save their fellow seamen and aviators.
The PBY Catalina was a flying boat that found a home in all branches of the United States military. Because it could land and take off on water, runways were unnecessary and the PBY was extremely versatile. Landing on a stretch of water also enabled the PBY to employ the element of surprise, as the enemy couldn’t necessarily determine the location of the plane in advance. Canada and other countries also adopted the Catalina into their armed forces, and various designations of the aircraft resulted. The number of the PBY Catalina produced far outnumbered any other flying boat.
After the conclusion of World War II, amphibious versions of the PBY Catalina remained in service. From 1946 through 1947, the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command employed the PBY and enjoyed tremendous success.
In 1967, the last Catalina (a PBY-6A) was retired from a Naval Reserve squadron. In 1980, the last active service PBY was also retired. Today, the PBY Catalina is mostly used in a civilian capacity as a water and chemical bomber to combat fires. Some of the Catalina’s impressive specifications include:
Maximum speed: 196 mph
Cruise speed: 125 mph
Range: 2,520 mi
Ceiling: 15,800 ft
Length: 63 ft 10 in
Wingspan: 104 ft
Height: 20 ft 2 in
Maximum weight: 35,420 lb
Empty weight: 20,910 lb
Engine(s): Two 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines
Rate of climb: 1,000 feet per minute
Crew: Nine, including the pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic, radioman, navigator, and four gunners.
Armament: 4,000 lbs of bombs, torpedoes, or depth charges, three .30 cal machine
guns, two .50 cal machine guns
Contractor: Consolidated Aircraft
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