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Out of the Big Box

Academy's 1/72nd Scale PBY-5 Catalina

n by Darrell Carney


Consolidated's venerable Catalina was born from a 1933 US Navy requirement for a new long range flying boat. First flown in 1935 the design matured into the distinctive twin engine, high wing patrol aircraft that saw service in every theater of the Second World War. Throughout its long and distinguished career it went through numerous upgrades and improvements to include growing "legs" for the versatile amphibious PBY-5A variant. More Catalinas were built than any other flying boat in history and outsold and outlived many of the more "modern" replacements.

Probably one of the slowest aircraft in the War the Catalina nonetheless tallied an impressive service record. It was a RAF Catalina that spotted the Bismarck and another Catalina that took up the watch and radioed the warship's position to the pursuing British fleet. Coastal Command Catalinas fought it out with the German U-boats in the battle of the Atlantic protecting the shipping lanes. PBY's in the Pacific carried out many different missions including search and rescue, transport and torpedo-bomber work. The famous "Black Cats" patrolled the western Pacific at night searching for Japanese shipping using radar and searching for downed Allied pilots.

Academy's PBY

Academy's fine 1/72nd scale Catalina series has been around now for several years. Included in the line are the PBY-2, PBY-4, and both the PBY-5 and amphibian PBY-5A "Black Cat." These kits are typical of Academy's later releases and include recessed panel lines, decent interior details and good fit. The kits are big - despite of having only two engines, the PBY was a very big airplane with wing span similar to that of a B-17.

My chosen variant is the PBY-5 in the (dreaded) combination of natural metal with yellow upper wing and horizontal tails. I currently live in Korea which allows me to take advantage of the very good in-country prices on all of the Korean made Academy kits and I didn't hesitate to add this kit to my ever growing Academy kit collection.

This project was originally started to get out of a modeling "rut" that I was in. I vowed to start and quickly finish the kit straight out of the box with no additional efforts to improve upon the kit parts. Well, I stuck to the out of the box part but due to busy life schedules and work commitments it was a year of 10 minutes here and 30 minutes there before my Catalina was on my shelf!

Building the kit

Construction began with the interior that includes the cockpit and waist gunners' stations. These areas are basic and could stand to use some scratchbuilt or aftermarket accessories but I was lacking reference material and again, wanted to break out of a slump so I painted the interior medium green and washed/highlighted the provided details. The cockpit is rather barren of detail but not much can be seen through the cockpit glazing anyway. The large observation blisters do provide the means take in the details for the waist positions and this area is a bit better represented by the kit to include catwalks, two .50 cal guns and bulkhead details.

Cockpit detail is on the spartan side, but not much of it can be seen through the heavily framed hood. Waist gun positions are furnished better with bulkheads, catwalks, and guns.

Before gluing the fuselage halves together I made a minor change to the way the nose turret was to fit on the aircraft. As supplied, the nose turret has a ring molded around its base that is trapped in a slot when the fuselage is glued together. I wanted to allow the nose turret to be removed from the fuselage to facilitate painting and handling. The ring from the base of the turret was carefully sanded away and a thin donut was fabricated from sheet styrene that fit into the nose turret slot in the fuselage halves. This ring was inserted when the fuselage halves were mated and allows the nose turret to be placed in the nose after painting and detailing is finished. Holes for the beaching gear were also opened up prior to gluing the fuselage together.

Once the fuselage was finished work progressed on the wing. Here is the only place I had some fit problems. Once the upper and lower wing halves were glued together the resulting fit at the forward part of the engine nacelles had a lot to be desired. This in turn led to a poor fit between the engine cowlings and engine nacelles. I did a considerable amount of work with sanding sticks to get an improved fit in this area. Academy provides parts to display the wing tip floats in the up or down position, a nice touch. Note that there are several holes to be opened up on the lower wing to allow for the oil cooler, fuel jettison pipes and bomb racks (if desired) to be attached later. The wing was not mounted to the fuselage until after painting and decaling were finished.

The kit provided engines were painted and washed/drybrushed to highlight the details. The engines were not fitted to the cowlings and propellers at this time to allow for painting of the cowlings along with the rest of the aircraft.

Academy PBY is a big kit which requires quite a lot of desk space. Note the copious amounts of masking tape needed to cover the wing for painting of the black stripes. 

Painting

After masking the interior the appropriate portions of the model were then airbrushed with SNJ and buffed with the Aluminum buffing compound. The upper wing and tailplanes were airbrushed using Tamiya brand yellow paint. I'm not sure I'm happy with the decision to stop at one coat of yellow but I didn't want it to be too bright. I have heard bad stories about Academy's decal's (one to follow below) and didn't have the confidence that the thin black walkway stripes on the upper wing would fit so I masked and airbrushed all of the black striping and markings on the model. The black with white trimmed chevron on the upper wing is a kit decal that was used and that did work well. Dark gray and brown "sludge" washes were used to pick out the recessed panel lines on the model.

The cockpit, nose turret, and observation blister framing was hand painted first with the interior green color then with Academy chrome silver enamel paint. All transparencies were dipped in Future both before and after being painted.

I applied the kit decals after airbrushing a coat of Future. I started with the underwing insignia just in case the Academy decals gave me problems but found them to work well and respond well to the Micro Set/Sol treatment so I continued with the upper wing insignia. After temporarily placing the upper left insignia I noticed it needed to move aft and outboard. Well, in the 30 seconds it took for me to double-check the instructions and a picture on the box my insignia was stuck fast! The yellow paint and/or the Micro Set combination didn't allow me any leeway in moving the decal. Rather than have a lopsided wing (or risk messing up the yellow paint) I opted to place the upper right wing insignia to match the left. Live and learn. All other kit decals went on fine and I was pleased with how they settled down into the recessed panel/rivet details. The sludge wash was also used overtop the decals to tone them down. After decaling was finished I shot the model with Aeromaster semi-gloss clear coat to blend it all together. At this point the wing was attached to the fuselage. I was pleasantly surprised by the perfect fit of all four of the wing struts. Pastel chalks were used for exhaust stains on the upper wing.

The various antennae, pitot probe and details were added after being contacted about doing this article. My kit's wing mounted ASV radar aerials had several of the antennae broken. I found these to be difficult to clean up and install. I'm still not sure I got the orientation correct for these aerials so don't use my model as your reference! These seem a little too thick for the scale and would be a great place to add some delicate brass aftermarket accessories to your model.

I have had some good feedback from others that should be mentioned. The kit painting/decaling instructions do not call out any wing or vertical tail deicer boots that apparently were provided on most PBY's; check your references. Also the waist position bug-eye cupola framing should include some additional framework where the transparency meets the fuselage. This could be easily painted in (if you catch it first!)

All photos were taken with a Nikon CoolPix 995. In progress shots were taken inside using the camera's built in flash. Photos of the completed model were taken outdoors on an overcast day using no flash in the "automatic" mode.

My "quick build" turned out to be not so quick but it did serve the purpose and break me out of my slump. The finished kit looks great and has inspired me to get building again. All in all I enjoyed Academy's PBY and if I see another here in Korea before I leave I'll probably pick it up!

  References 

n American Airplanes of World War II - Airtime Publishing 
n Aircraft Resource Center PBY-5A Walkaround Photos by Phillip Juvet ( http://www.aircraftresourcecenter.com )

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