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Consolidated PBY-2 Catalina

by Gil Hodges


Consolidated PBY-2 Catalina



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The Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat is world famous. It set the standard that all other flying boats are judged by for range, durability, and dependability. It's illustrious history is well documented. Suffice it to say that the pre-WWII models set new long distance cruising records; it gained fame as the plane that found the Japanese fleet at Midway; it saved many lives as it patrolled over lonely stretches of water; dropped bombs under the guise of "Black Cat" squadrons; and still soldiers on today toting supplies to remote regions and fighting fires as a water bomber.

My interest in the PBY-2 stemmed from two sources. The first is a natural love of those gorgeous 1930's US Navy planes with "chrome yellow" wings. The second is a relative who flew them. My great uncle, Ed "Pappy" Bankston, joined the Navy in 1934 as an aircraft mechanic. He was able to qualify for pilot training and graduated from Pensacola in the spring of 1937. His first assignment was to report to San Diego and take a brand new PBY down to the Panama Canal Zone. He went on to fly for the Navy until 1957. He flew Devastators on the Yorktown at the beginning of WWII (a very interesting story for another time!), ferried aircraft the latter half of the war, and eventually ended up performing acceptance testing of the F9F Cougar towards the end of his career. When Belcher Bits released their conversion set for the Monogram 1/48th PBY-5, I was primed and ready.



The Belcher Bits Conversion

The Belcher Bits conversion set is nicely molded. It contains a new solid tail with a separate rudder, a middle fuselage section with "hatches" to replace the bulged waist blisters of the -5, two sets of engine plugs, oil cooler scoops for the wing leading edges, early style prop hubs, and spinners for the hubs. The parts are very well molded, with almost no pin holes and delicate indented panel lines. You can build a PBY-2/3/4 with the parts provided. The instructions also tell how to modify the kit parts to build a PBY-1.





The model was built straight from the box except for the conversion work.

The conversion itself is pretty straightforward. The fuselage has the heaviest work. The kit tail has to be removed. The instructions clearly show where to do this.

The fit of the resin tail to the Monogram fuselage was very good. The area of the waist section that has to be cut away is a little trickier. The cut lines don't all fall directly on panel lines. The instructions are very good in this area also, and the fit of my part was good. Just go slow, test fit as you remove sections, and remember it's a lot easier to cut more plastic away than it is to fill and sand later! Also, it will help the fit of the new waist section if the gun mount pedestals in the interior are cut down a bit.

I didn't bother to detail the waist section since the hatch windows limit viewing the interior. The conversion set would require a bit more work if you wanted to open the hatches.



Once the new parts were in place and sanded smooth, all the adjacent panel lines were rescribed. This led to the only shortcoming in the conversion kit. The Monogram fuselage has fine indented rivet detail. There is none on the resin parts, and you lose a lot on the rear section after sanding everything smooth. Be prepared to reapply all those rivets so that the new and the old blend together. I tried a ponce wheel (no luck), but ended up drawing lines on the model as a guide to "riveting" the model with a sewing needle.

The wing is a lot easier.

The wing was first assembled and then the kit engine nacelles were cut off flush with the leading edge of the wing. Next, the appropriate -2 resin nacelle plugs were superglued into place. These were the best fitting parts in the Belcher Bits set.

Next, the kit cowlings were shortened according to the instructions. They have to be cut at a spot that is flush with the rear of the kit engines. I placed the engines in each of the cowls and then wound a strip of tape around the outside to mark the cut lines. This insured that the backs of the cowls would be "squared up" after cutting.

The engines were painted and installed, and the cowls were mounted onto the resin nacelle plugs. Two holes were drilled into the leading edge of the wing to accept the resin oil cooler intake scoops. That completed the conversion for the wing.



The rest of the modifications were minor. The kit prop blades were cut off of their hubs. I drilled holes (#72 drill bit) into the ends of the blades and the resin hubs. That allowed me to insert bits of floral wire into the holes to act as mounting pins. The kit horizontal tails were used by sawing off the molded mounting stubs, and "squaring up" the gluing edge. The resin tail has bumps that serve as locators that fit the holes left in the kit stabs after the mounting stubs are cut away (thoughtful engineering).



Painting and Markings


The canopy was masked with Tamiya tape. The hatch windows were blanked off with sheet plastic cut to shape and the turret area was stuffed with tissue. I didn't worry about the small windows. The kit wing lights were replaced with sections of clear sprue that were sanded to match the wing leading edge and then masked off. The entire model was then sprayed Floquil Old Silver. The initial coat served as a primer. Blemishes were touched up and then more Old Silver was applied. Model Master Chrome Yellow was used for the wing and the stabs. The wing walk area on the top wing was painted in black and RLM 66 (sacrilege!).



The markings are supposed to represent Patrol Wing 3 in 1937. The model was masked to ready it for the chevron, cowl paint, and the tail stripes. First silver was sprayed on so that the next color, white, would cover easier. When the white had dried, it was masked and the red was applied. The 3-P-1 and the serial numbers on the tail are dry transfer lettering. The stars and the US Navy are spare decals. I couldn't find a Pat-3 emblem anywhere. Perhaps I'll be able to add one in the future.



Finishing Touches


All of the small parts were added to complete the model. The only variation here was that the loop antenna was moved from the wing to just behind the canopy. Hatch windows were cut from clear sheet and cemented into place with a generous coat of Future. The small windows were all filled with Micro Crystal Clear (they took a week to clear up!). The props were painted with SNJ silver, which eased the masking and painting of the blue/yellow/red tips. The tail gear was beefed up with wire after the heavy resin tail broke the kit piece.





All in all, this was an enjoyable project. I highly recommend the Belcher Bits set to everyone with a hankering for something "big, yellow, and flashy" on the shelf. My collection now has a more personal connection to the past.

Happy modeling everybody!



Additional Images


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Text, Images and Model Copyright 2001 by Gil Hodges
Page Created 13 December, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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