1943 Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

Designed as a patrol bomber (hence “PB”), the PBY served as a successful anti-submarine and maritime patrol.

Popularly known as the Catalina, this type aircraft was originally designed as a flying boat; however, the addition of retractable tricycle landing gear with the 5A model made it fully amphibious, meaning it could operate from land or sea. Its unique and distinctive design made it instantly recognizable and includes an impressive parasol wing, aft blisters for observation and machine gunners, and out-rigger floats that draw up to form streamlined wingtips. This workhorse aircraft served every branch of the American military during World War II and also served in the air forces and navies of other nations, notably Britain’s Royal Air Force.

While not the fastest craft in the fleet, the PBY was among the most useful, capable of long range flying and provided a wide range of services, which made it one of the most popular and most produced (4000+) aircraft of its type. It was a PBY that spotted the German battleship Bismarck in 1941 and the Japanese fleet approaching Midway, beginning the battle that would turn the tide of the war in the Pacific. Also employed as convoy escorts and cargo transport, the PBY performed search and rescue functions, pulling many a downed pilot from the sea. After the war, the PBY saw continuing service as aerial firefighters, commercial airliners, and even as an expedition aircraft for famed diver Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

On display courtesy of the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection


  • Year Built — 1943
  • Wingspan — 104′
  • Cruise Speed — 117 mph
  • Top Speed — 179 mph
  • Gross Weight — 35,240 lbs
  • Engine — Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 (1200 hp)
  • Armament — Three .30 cal machine guns (nose and tail) Two .50 cal machine guns (waist blisters) 4,000 lbs of bombs or depth charges

Kermit’s Comments

This amazing aircraft has an equally amazing history. This was the actual aircraft used to fly President General Juan Peron of Argentina into exile!

In 1955, Peron was overthrown in a coup d’état and sought asylum at the Paraguayan Embassy in Buenos Aires while plans were made to hasten his exile. He was transferred to a Paraguayan gunship in the harbor, a “floating jail,” and the new revolutionary government kept their guns trained on the ship. After 12 days of negotiation, the President of Paraguay sent this PBY, which landed in the harbor and carried Peron safely to Paraguay. After many years of exile, Peron finally returned to Argentina and took power in 1973 but passed away the following year.

This aircraft was graciously donated to the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection by Charles Largay.