Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina

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    Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina

    Radar, twin .50 caliber guns in a power-driven bow turret, tall tail with a taller vertical fin first seen on the PBN-1; outrigger floats from each wingtip, hinged to fold up after takeoff; massive pylon supported the parasol-wing above the fuselage.

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This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Today, satellites are the battle fleet's keenest eyes. But during World War II, crews aboard lumbering flying boats provided distant, early warning of enemy ships and aircraft at sea. The Consolidated PBY Catalina was the U. S. Navy's most successful patrol flying boat of the war but naval aviators also used the PBY to attack ships at night, and to search for and rescue people stranded at sea. Following World War II, large seaplanes and flying boats suffered a mass extinction. The war caused a tremendous surge in concrete runway construction around the world, and wartime research and development pushed the range of aircraft beyond the span of the world's oceans. Seaplanes continued for some years after the war to serve special needs but land-based aircraft rapidly became more efficient at delivering most goods and services whether commercial or military.

Many aviation experts considered the PBY Catalina obsolete when the war started but combat proved the critics wrong. The 'Cat' had two noteworthy attributes that made the airplane prized by American aviators and the flight crews of other Allied nations: great range and excellent durability. By VJ Day, August 15, 1945, Consolidated and its licensees had built 3,282 PBYs, more than any flying boat or seaplane ever built.