The Aircraft On Display

At the urging of the Australian American Catalina Memorial Foundation, the Museum's Catalina was acquired in 2002 using a WA government grant. According to the description beside the display, "After years of searching, the Australian American Catalina Memorial Foundation located a seriously neglected Catalina in Texas, USA. The "Old Cat" was on the side of a road and was being used to promote a local restaurant ... Two retired US servicemen painstakingly restored the aircraft and packed it in pieces in shipping containers ready for its final ocean crossing from Texas to Perth." The intent was for it to feature in a display commemorating the "Double Sunrise" flights (See below) from the Swan River at Crawley to Sri Lanka during World War II. When attempts to obtain funding for this display failed, in January 2007 it was moved in parts to the Museum and reassembled where it now stands.

According to an account on (See "References / Links

"), the Museum's Catalina "was built to Contract Noa-464 at Consolidated Aircraft's factory in New Orleans, Louisiana and was taken on charge by the United States Navy as Bu46624 on the 23rd November 1944. It was then based at Elizabeth City between November 1944 and January 1945, and at Terminal Island from February 1945 to April 1945. After its Navy service it was placed in storage at Litchfield Park, Arizona on 15th January 1953, being struck off charge in June 1956. At that time it had a total of 1407 hours on the airframe."

Other information points to a mixed record since then, including a period with the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation, in Chino, California, in 1979, and being displayed at the 94 Aero Squadron Restaurant in Clearwater, Florida in 1981.

A more detailed history was provided in the October / November edition of the RAAFAWA newslatter "Air Mail".

Type / History

Type Maritime Patrol Flying Boat
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft
Designer Isaac M. Laddon
Maiden Flight March 28, 1935
Introduced October 1936 (US Navy)
Retired January 1957
Primary users US Navy, USAAF, RAF,
Number built 4051
Variants PBN-1 Nomad

The Consolidated Catalina was designed around the concept of a "Maritime Patrol Bomber", to have a long range enabling it to harass enemy shipping, particularly in the Pacific. It was a response to a US Navy requirement, winning a competition against a similar Douglas design, mainly on the basis of lower cost.

In World War II, Catalinas operated not only over the Pacific, but also the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Their duties in the Atlantic theatre were mainly convoy escort, where their long endurance saw them given the role on the dangerous route to Murmansk in Russia.

The description with the display continues the story:

"The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) ordered its first PBY-5 Catalinas in 1940. By the end of the war, the RAAF had taken delivery of 168 Catalinas. The RAAF used Catalinas in a wide range of roles including reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols, offensive mine-laying and air-sea rescue. In addition, RAAF Catalina aircraft were used to transport Australian personnel back to Australia at the end of the war. The RAAF retired its last Catalina in 1952.

Several squadrons of PBY-5A and PBY-6A Catalinas in the Pacific theatre were specially modified to operate as night convoy raiders. Outfitted with magnetic anomaly detection gear and painted flat black, the "Black Cats" attacked Japanese supply convoys at night. Catalinas were very successful in this highly unorthodox role.

Between August 1943 and January 1944, Black Cat squadrons had sunk 112,700 tons of merchant shipping, damaged a further 47,000 tons and damaged 10 Japanese warships.

The RAAF also operated Catalinas as night raiders, aircraft mounting mine-laying operations deep into Japanese-held waters. The RAAF also occasionally used Catalinas to mount nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, including the major base at Rabaul, New Guinea."

The novel "Black Cats Fly", by Bob Wyatt, documents these activities particularly well.

After the war, Catalinas were found useful in many roles. Many air forces used them for their designed purpose, but others were used as transports (particularly in regions where landing grounds were few, but lakes or rivers abounded, like Brazil and Canada). They have also been widely used as fire-fighting water bombers, due to their ability to take on water loads from lakes, and carry the heavy load to a fire. The "Double Sunrise" Flights Over the Indian Ocean, during World War II, Catalinas provided a crucial air link between Australia and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), and so Europe. Carrying additional fuel tanks and stripped of unnecessary weight, Catalinas operated by Qantas flew the "Double Sunrise" route from Perth to Colombo. The name arose from the long duration of the flight, the 5650 km (3600 nm) route taking up to 32 hours to complete. Night-time operation was preferred, to help avoid Japanese aircraft, so the flight occupied two nights (and so the two sunrises) and one day.

There is a memorial in J.H. Abraham's Park, on the foreshore of Perth's Melville Water, from where the Catalinas operated. It holds the details:

During World War II vital refuelling bases were lost on the 'Empire Route' from Australia to England via Singapore.

To keep communications open, for two years commencing on 29 June 1943, Qantas Empire Airways operated the world's longest regular non-stop service - Perth to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) - a distance of 3,153 miles (5,632 kilometres).

The initial services were operated by Catalina Flying Boats, which flew into and out of Perth from this point on the Swan River. Known as the 'flight of the double sunrise', these missions were flown in complete radio silence and without any radio navigation aids.

The story of the Indian Ocean Service is one of triumph over adversity, and the highest standards of aviation endeavour.

General Characteristics

General characteristics

Length: 63 ft 10 in (19.46 m)
Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.16 m)
Wingspan 104 ft (31.7 m)
Powerplant: Two 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney
R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines
Weight: empty 9485 kg (20910 lb),
max loaded 16066 kg (35420 lb)


Maximum speed: 314 km/h (196 mph)
Range: 4030 km (2520 mi)
Service ceiling: 4000 m (15800 ft)


Defensive: 3, 0.30 in and 2, 0.50 in machine guns
Bomb load: 1800 kg (4000 lb), bombs, depth charges or torpedos