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PBY-5 Catalina Transport
Palm Springs Air Museum visit November, 2008

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Consolidated PBY Catalina

PBY Catalina, Palm Springs Air Museum - California

The museum's Catalina is flyable and visitors are able to get inside and explore approximately 2/3 of the aircraft. Photo to the left is courtesy of the Palm Springs Air Museum.


The "PB" designated patrol bomber and the letter "Y" was the designation for Consolidated Aircraft, the manufacturer.


The Catalina flying boat was introduced in 1936. It was used by U. S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Forces, Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. With a wing span of 104 feet, the PBY-5 version was powered by two 1,200 hp Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines. The aircraft weighed approximately 20,910 pounds when empty and its maximum weight at takeoff would have been 35,420 pounds. For armaments it had 5 machine guns (a combination of .30 cal and .50 cal), and it could carry up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or depth charges. Over 4000 Catalinas were built during WWII.


The Catalina was a multi-purpose aircraft, used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and cargo transport. Several squadrons were painted black and used for night attacks. These “Black Cats” were successful at disrupting the supply convoys to the Japanese held islands in the South Pacific.


Inside of PBY Catalina

One of the most dramatic stories involving a PBY Catalina is that of the rescue of the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. After being hit by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, the Indianapolis capsized and sank in twelve minutes in the Philippine Sea. The survivors were stranded in shark-filled water somewhere between Guam and Leyte Gulf for almost five days.


Lieutenant Adrian Marks was in command of the Catalina that spotted the survivors of the sunken ship. Rubber rafts and supplies were dropped, but upon seeing the horror below him, Marks landed in open ocean (in violation of orders) and he and his men began pulling the survivors into the aircraft. When the flying boat was full, they pushed additional men up on the wings and tied them down with parachutes so they wouldn't fall off, eventually loading the Catalina with 56 men who were in the most immediate danger.


Indianapolis survivors on Peleliu.

U.S. Navy ships arrived later and transferred everyone from the Catalina and picked up the remaining survivors still in the water. In the end, 317 men were rescued from their horrific ordeal. The Catalina's landing had caused so much damage to the aircraft that it couldn't take off again and it was sunk with gun fire. Photo above right shows an interior view of the museum's Catalina. The U.S. Navy photograph on the left shows the survivors of the Indianapolis on their way to the hospital in the island of Peleliu.


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