|Catalina Flying Boat - Photo Chris Lord|
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations. In the United States Army Air Forces and later in the United States Air Force their designation was OA-10. A Canadian-built PBY would be familiarly called a Canso. During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. The PBY was the most successful aircraft of its kind; no other flying boat was produced in greater numbers. The last active military PBYs were not retired from service until the 1980s. Even today, over 70 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as an airtanker in aerial firefighting operations all over the world. The initialism of "P.B.Y." was determined in accordance with the U.S. Navy aircraft designation system of 1922; PB representing "Patrol Bomber" and Y being the code used for the aircraft's manufacturer, Consolidated Aircraft. The PBY was originally designed to be a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to compromise enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the U.S. Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways, in effect having the entire ocean available. Several different flying boats were adopted by the Navy, but the PBY was the most widely used and produced. Although slow and ungainly, PBYs distinguished themselves in World War II as exceptionally reliable. Allied armed forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered by many veterans of the war for their role in rescuing downed airmen, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew downed over water. PBY airmen called their aircraft the "cat" on combat missions and "Dumbo" in air-sea rescue service.