In October 1933 the U.S. Navy contracted Consolidated, Martin, and Douglas to build competing prototypes for a patrol flying boat. Consolidated Aircraft’s design designated XP3Y-1 won the competition. It was powered by two 825 hp (615 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-54 Twin Wasp engines mounted on the leading edge of a pylon mounted, externally braced, parasol wing. The wingtip stabilizing floats retracted in flight to form streamlined wingtips, and a cantilever cruciform tail all combined to give this aircraft better performance than earlier designed flying boats.
Armament consisted of four .30 caliber Browning AN/M2 machine guns and up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs.
The maiden flight of the XP3Y-1 was on March 28, 1935, after which it was transferred to the U.S. Navy for service trials. In October 1935, the prototype was returned to Consolidated for further work, including installation of 900 hp (671 kW) R-1830-64 engines to bring the aircraft into the category of patrol bomber. The aircraft was redesignated XPBY-1.
The XPBY-1 made its first flight on May 19, 1936, where it achieved a record non-stop distance flight of 3,443 miles (5,541 km). The PBY-1 was delivered to navy squadron VP-11F in October 1936 and over the next three years the Catalina design was refined with an estimated 4,051 units being built at a cost of $90,000 each. (That’s about $1,497,397.83 in 2013 dollars.) The PBY Catalina would be the workhorse of maritime patrol for more than 20 years.
Probably the most famous PBY patrol was “Strawberry 5″; Strawberry 5 was the first PBY, US patrol aircraft, to spot and report the unknown location of the Japanese Naval Armada as it approached Midway Island on June 4, 1942. LT Howard P. Ady, Jr., flying with VP-23 began sending back radio reports:
0534 Enemy Carriers
0540 ED 180 sight 320
0552 Two carriers and main body of ships, carriers in front, course 135, speed 25
The call ” Many planes heading Midway ” at 0544 allowed the airfield to be cleared at Midway. The 10 air strikes that would follow, culminated in the most spectacular six minutes in United States Naval history, when Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were hit by SBDs from Enterprise and Yorktown between 1022 and 1028 being perhaps the decisive turning point of WWII in the Pacific theater.
|Specifications PBY Catalina
• Crew: 10 — pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners, ventral gunner
• Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)