PBY-6A Unit: 721 Eskadrille Serial: L-868
Typical of the ultimate form of Catalina remaining in use after WWII, this PBY-6A served until the late 1950’s with the Royal Danish air force based at Vaerlose. After the war a different radar was fitted and the bow was remodelled without the turret.
An Australian PBY made the first trans-Pacific flight across the South Pacific between Australia and Chile in 1946, making numerous stops at islands along the way for refueling, meals, and overnight sleep of its crew.
With the end of the war, all of the flying boat versions of the Catalina were quickly retired from the U.S. Navy, but the amphibious ones remained in service for some years. The last Catalina in U.S. service was a PBY-6A operating with a Naval Reserve squadron, which was retired from use on 3 January 1957. The PBY subsequently equipped the world’s smaller armed services, in fairly substantial numbers, into the late 1960s.
The U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command had PBYs (designated OA-10s) in service as scouting aircraft from 1946 through 1947.
The Brazilian Air Force flew Catalinas in naval air patrol missions against German submarines starting in 1943. The flying boats also carried out air mail deliveries. In 1948, a transport squadron was formed and equipped with PBY-5As converted to the role of amphibious transports. The 1st Air Transport Squadron (ETA-1) was based in the port city of Belem and flew Catalinas and C-47s in well-maintained condition until 1982. Catalinas were convenient for supplying military detachments scattered among the Amazon waterways. They reached places where only long-range transport helicopters would dare to go. ETA-1 insignia was a winged turtle with the motto “Though slowly, I always get there”. Today, the last Brazilian Catalina (a former RCAF one) is displayed at the Airspace Museum (MUSAL), in Rio de Janeiro Jacques-Yves Cousteau used a PBY-6A (N101CS) as part of his diving expeditions. His second son, Philippe, was killed while attempting a water landing in the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal, June 28, 1979. His PBY had just been repaired when he took it out for a flight. As he landed, one of the aircraft’s propellers separated, cut through the cockpit and killed the younger Cousteau.
Chilean navy captain Roberto Parragué in his PBY Catalina “Manu-Tara” undertook the first flight between Easter Island and the continent (from Chile) and the first flight to Tahiti; making him a national hero of France as well of Chile. The flight wasn’t authorized by authorities.
Of the few dozen remaining airworthy Catalinas, the majority of them are in use today as aerial firefighting planes. China Airlines, the official airline of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was founded with two PBY amphibious flying boats.