Powered by two 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 engines, the PBY-5 was the fastest of the entire Catalina family of flying boats! It could manage a top speed of 189 mph at 7,000 feet!
First delivered to the US Navy in 1940, production of the Catalina grew steadily due to many orders from the U.S. Navy, the RAF and other Allied air forces. When World War II erupted in December 1941, the Catalina was the principal Navy patrol and air-sea rescue aircraft in the US inventory. Flown by the RAF on anti-submarine patrols in the Channel, Mediterranean and Atlantic sectors, the Catalina already had an impressive service record by the end of 1941.
With a range of 2,990 miles the Catalina could remain aloft for many hours covering vast expanses of ocean. When a submarine was spotted, the Catalina could attack with four 1,000 bomb depth charges or could strafe with its four machine guns, two .30 caliber and two .50 caliber Brownings. Besides its attack role, the Catalina was best known and respected for its air-sea rescue missions during which countless aviators were plucked from enemy seas, sometimes right in the heat of battle. The crews who flew the Catalina on rescue missions were among the most appreciated aviators in the service. Many owe their lives to the daring courage of the Catalina crews and their tough but slow flying boats.
With a wingspan of 104 feet and a length of 63 feet-10 inches, the PBY-5 was a big plane for its day, very close to the B-17 in wingspan but shorter in length. Designed without wing dihedral, all the PBY aircraft required constant attention from the pilot or copilot to ensure level and straight flight. Maybe this little fault was the biggest problem with the famous Catalina flying boats