Catalina PBY5A Scale Model RC Flying Boat by Brian Hutchinson

Categories » » » All Pages
15th December 2015

This radio control scale model PBY5A Catalina Patrol Bomber flying boat was built by Brian Hutchinson during 2013. The aircraft features retractable landing gear, twin engines, observer windows, machine gun turret and landing lights.

Catalina PBY5A Scale Model Patrol Bomber Flying Boat

Brian's Build Notes

This aircraft is the result of my second attempt at building a PBY5A Catalina. The first model was pensioned off after a minor accident on water and, although the structure was still OK, I decided that a model scaled more accurately was in order.

After several aborted builds from plans which were not really up to scratch, I discovered the model designed and built by Sturla Snorrason in Iceland. Here was an aeroplane built faithfully to scale and big enough to provide an impressive flying model.

The plans drawn to 1/8th scale are accurate and comprehensive. The model is quite large at 3,962 mm wingspan. While the undercarriage and blisters are shown in detail, they are also available ready made from the designer. I purchased the Blisters (2 sets) as I wanted to make them fully operational, but decided I wanted to construct the scale retract systems myself. However I did not fully realise what I was letting myself in for. There is several weeks of work in the gear, up to and including nickel plating to prevent corrosion.

Construction of the airframe, while straightforward, is not a job for a beginner. A large building table is required. I found the myriad of pictures of the construction process extremely helpful, which you can view on Sturla Snorrason's website page here »

Finishing the aircraft presented me with a few problems. I wanted to complete the airframe as it would have been used during WW2 with forward turret. While there were plenty of individual photos, not much comprehensive coverage was available. Perth to the rescue !

I found great photo coverage of the US Navy Catalina in the Aviation History Museum, Bull Creek WA website here »

My PBY5A Catalina model aircraft weighs in at 23kg and is powered by 2 x DLE35RA engines. It is quite easy to fly. The retractable undercarriage works well using oil as a means of reducing the tendency to snap up or down. Oil also makes the operating speed more near to scale, as do the wingtip floats, which really stand out when deployed for a low pass over the airfield.

The aircraft has never been flown from water, since I think the complication of keeping the wings level when at high speed on water is perhaps beyond my skill level. The model tends to be a floater on landing, so the approach speed needs to judged very carefully to ensure safe landing on shorter strips.

Go out there and build one for yourself. You will be chuffed with the result !

Maiden Flight

The PBY Catalina scale model's maiden flight took place on Sunday 15 December 2013 at the old BADMAC airfield in Johnstons Road, Bairnsdale.

Another PBY flight on Wednesday 8th January 2014.

PBY Catalina History

The PBY Catalina flying boat was designed and built by the American aircraft manufacturers, Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. PB stands for Patrol Bomber, with Y being Consolidated Aircraft’s manufacturer identification.

First flown in March 1935, they were in production for over ten years and could be equipped with depth charges, bombs, torpedoes and .50 caliber machine guns. The most successful flying boat ever produced, It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II.

The Catalina was also used by the RAAF, despite its vulnerability due to lack of speed. It was a front line aircraft effectively taking the fight to the Japanese through its long distance mine laying flights.

General Specifications

  • Crew: 10 — pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners, ventral gunner.
  • Length: 63 ft 10 7/16 in (19.46 m)
  • Wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m)
  • Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.15 m)
  • Wing area: 1,400 ft² (130 m²)
  • Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW each) each
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0309
  • Drag area: 43.26 ft² (4.02 m²)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.73


  • Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h)
  • Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km)
  • Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 25.3 lb/ft² (123.6 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.034 hp/lb (0.056 kW/kg)
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.9


  • 3 .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns, two in nose turret, one in ventral hatch at tail.
  • 2 .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns, one in each waist blister
  • 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs or depth charges. Torpedo racks were also available.

Brian's advice if you would like to build a PBY like this

Go to Sturla Snorrason's website in Recayavik, Iceland. He has everything you need if you build his design, in my opinion the best Catalina design around for RC. Sturla makes beautiful quality retractable undercarriage. I love mine. He has won quite a few trophies.

For the plans, Laser Cut Kits Australia is a source as maybe are some of the parts.

8 Reviews - Average Rating 4.9 / 5 (Show All)

Add your review ⇒

PBY Moulded Parts?

- 18th February 2020

I am entertaining building this plane, however have no idea where to find the moulded parts, cowls, canopy, side blisters, etc. Can you assist me? Thanks, Jim.

Reply by Brian Hutchinson:
Hi Jim. I have added some advice for you above.

Modellbau PBY Catalina

- 12th July 2018

Exceptional work, Brian! I spent 4 months building a PBY with a 5' wingspan... very gratifying, but yours is the real deal!

I have a Modellbau large scale PBY Kit with Moki engines - unbuilt... probably a 108" wingspan... do you know anyone who might be interested in this kit? I don't have the time to build the thing and am quite happy with the smaller version and would love to find a good home for this. Thanks for any direction you may be able to offer - and again, really great work!

A totally believable Catalina

- 27th June 2017

Absolutely brilliant Brian. Not only the build accuracy and detail, but the sheer believability that is evident when flying. It is just like looking at the real thing. Congratulations. Great maiden flight take off and landing.

Catalina PBY Australian Version

- 08th June 2017

I have a Model of the Australian version. It is in great condition and bears the name 'QANTAS'on the port wing and 'VH-EBD' on the starboard wing.
If interested contact me at "" . I live in Canberra ACT at 1 Culgoa circuit O'MALLEY ACT 2606. Ph 02 6286 3062. Cheers, Neil Garvey 8-6-2017

Catalina PBY Australian Version

- 08th June 2017

I have the Model of the Australian version and it is in great condition. It bears the name 'QANTAS' on the topside of the port wing and 'VH-EBD' likewise on the starboard wing. It is cream in colour from above and silver from below... It has two engines, wheels (3).
It was made by 'Boyle' and carries the number "2011". Armaments - Machine gun-type turret behind wings each side, and again on the nose. Looks like something on the wings outside of the engines. Tail rudder also has VH EBD markings (slightly scratched). Each wing has a float on outer edge, the whole thing looks authentic.


- 01st May 2017

Beautiful model and flight. A pleasure to watch. Fantastic job Brian!

I'm next

- 20th May 2015

I love PBY's. Have the plans to build one also, just collecting all the pieces, will be emailing Sturla soon for parts. NICE FLIGHT by the way.

Nice work and good landing

- 10th April 2015

Can see that you put many, many hours of hard work into building that model Brian. Fantastic detail. Nice landing on maiden flight would have been a relief !

Add your review ⇒

« Previous | Next »

More related pages …

How to balance your model aircraft properly
Many aircraft modellers find themselves in bother on first flight because the balance is just not where it should be. Find out how to properly set the centre of gravity.
What makes a good RC pilot
What makes a good model pilot? What is the mysterious factor that causes certain people to have the mind and hand coordination necessary for success?
History of the Bairnsdale And District Model Aero Club
For many years the Bairnsdale And District Model Aero Club rooms and airfield was located behind the Bairnsdale Tip on Johnsons Road, Forge Creek.