The Catalina operated and maintained by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society was acquired in 2002 in Portugal where it had been operated as a water bomber under Chilean registration, and in September 2003 began a three week flight to Australia, arriving at Illawarra Regional Airport on 5 October 2003.
The aircraft is a PBY-6A model, built in 1945 by Consolidated at its New Orleans plant, c/n 2043 and delivered to the US Navy. It was later sold as surplus to the Aircraft Instrument Corporation and placed on the US Civil Register as N9562C. It was later transferred to Chile and flew with several companies until placed in storage in 1960 for twenty years. It was retrieved from storage and began operations as a water bomber with registration CC-CCS. Whilst in fire fighting service on 27 January 1986 the aircraft sank in Lago Guitierrez, Argentina. It was salvaged, rebuilt and back in service in 1988. In 1991 it was ferried across the Atlantic for operation by the Spanish Land Management Department ICONA. Subsequently it went on charter to Aerocondor in Portugal.
HARS intends to restore the Catalina to conform as closely as possible to the configuration of the famous RAAF ‘Black Cats’ of World War 2. The RAAF ‘Black Cats’ were pure flying boats, enabling long range and maximum possible loads with extended water take offs. The Society’s PBY-6A is an amphibian (with retractable wheels), but once fully restored, in flight with wheels retracted, it will resemble the original ‘Black Cats’ flying boat very closely. The aircraft markings selected are those of A24-362 which served with 43 Squadron RAAF as OX-V. This aircraft was flown by HARS member Rees Hughes. The original A24-362 had the tail fin of the PBY-6A. The incredible versatility of the Catalina was demonstrated most during World War 2. The Society’s VH-PBZ ‘Felix’ proudly represents the ‘Black Cat’ squadrons of the RAAF and is a fitting tribute to the 239 Australian airmen who lost their lives undertaking hazardous bombing, barge harassing, air sea rescue and mine laying missions in Catalinas, both at night and in daylight, and always at very low altitudes. These activities caused significant disruptions to the Japanese supply lines, particularly oil and essential military cargoes, by the destruction of their shipping. Because of their long range capability they proved to be excellent reconnaissance aircraft. Their most notable activity in this capacity was in the shadowing of the Japanese Naval Force just prior to the Coral Sea Battle. In all, The RAAF had a total of 166 Catalina aircraft.
The war time configuration of the Catalinas used in operations carried a 0.5 inch Browning machine gun in each blister and twin .303 Browning machine guns in the bow compartment as well as in the tunnel compartment. The machine guns in the blister had to be restrained by a movable arm that was in position during action stations to stop the gunner from inadvertently shooting the aircraft’s tail off. The machine guns in the bow and tunnel compartments fired on targets below or behind the aircraft.
It must be remembered that these Catalinas were flying boats and even though they were flown by RAAF pilots all terminolgy was nautical. Although they were heavy on the controls, the Catalina was a very docile plane to fly, however on the water it was a very ungainly boat.
Even after the outbreak of war, Qantas took delivery of 19 Catalinas between January and October 1941. They were to convey important persons as passengers travelling overseas. Their most notable route was the ‘Double Sunrise Service’ direct from Perth to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a distance of 5,632 kilometres without touchdown. It was the only form of personnel transport between Australia, Europe and America during the war.
Catalinas continued in passenger service after the war linking many of the Pacific islands with Australia. The last Qantas flying boat service was a Catalina New Guinea flight on 24 July 1958 using VH-EBD. New Guinea services were then taken over by TAA using two amphibian PBY-5As acquired from Canada. The undercarriage and hydraulics were removed to increase payload.
Several other airlines, including Ansett, employed Catalinas in the 1950s and 1960s for brief periods on island work. It is disappointing that none were preserved in flying condition and that an airworthy example has had to be purchased overseas.
(Based on PB2B-2, PBY-5, PBY-6)
Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina – 2 Step Planing Hull, Retractable Floats
Length 19.45 m | 63 ft 10 in
Wing Span 31.7 m | 104 ft
Height 6.14 m | 20 ft 2 in
Maximum Take Off Weight
• Military 15,900 kg | 35,000 lbs
• Civillian 12,700 kg | 28,000 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight 12,700 kg | 28,000 lbs
• Rough Water 12,380 kg | 27,300 lbs
• Unfaired Nose 12,250 kg | 27,000 lbs
Draught (@ 27,000 lbs) 0.8 m | 2 ft 9 in
Airborne Speed (@ 27,000 lbs) 120 km/h | 75 mph (65 kt)
Climb Speed 165 km/h | 103 mph (90 kt)
Cruise Speed 213 km/h | 132 mph (115 kt)
Landing Speed 138 km/h | 86 mph (75 kt)
Stall Speed (floats up) 84 km/h | 52 mph (45 kt)
Normal Fuel Capacity 5,900 ltr | 1,460 Imp. gal
Engine Oil Capacity (usable each engine) 220 ltr | 54 Imp. gal
Maximum Range 5,670 kms | 3,450 mls (3060 nm)
Maximum Endurance Longest non-stop flight 31 hr 45 min
Maximum Cruise Altitude 7,620 m | 25,000 ft
Ceiling 5,520 m | 18,100 ft
Passengers 14 airline configuration – up to 28 charter
Power Plant 2 twin row 14 cylinder Pratt & Whitney 1830-92 radial engines
Maximum Power (at take off) 895 kW | 1,200 hp
Take Off Power Setting 2,700 RPM and 48” manifold pressure
Cruise Power Setting 1,850 – 2,050 RPM and 30” manifold pressure
Supercharger Single Speed
Fuel Consumption (per engine cruise) 105 – 135 ltr/hr | 28 – 35 gal/hr
Maximum Oil Consumption 2 ltr/hr | 0.5 gal/hr
Overhaul Life 1000 hrs