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Wings Over Miami Air Museum, Part 3

The Super Cat — one of more than 4,000 PBY Catalina flying boats produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.

During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. The PBY was the most successful aircraft of its kind; no other flying boat was produced in greater numbers. The last active military PBYs were not retired from service until the 1980s. Even today, over 70 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as an air-tanker in aerial firefighting operations all over the world.

Although slow and ungainly, PBYs distinguished themselves in World War II as exceptionally reliable. Allied armed forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered by many veterans of the war for their role in rescuing downed airmen, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew downed over water. PBY airmen called their aircraft the "cat" on combat missions and "Dumbo" in air-sea rescue service.

Although the PBY was called a "flying boat" it was, in fact, amphibious — note the landing gear. This was a new feature implemented in 1941 earning the designation PBY-5A. My engineering background brought all sorts of questions to mind about how they sealed the landing gear bay so that the aircraft could still float without taking on water and sinking. Attempting to satisfy my curiosity, I found several photos of this exact aircraft in flight — showing the wheels fitting in the fuselage opening with no cover. I can only guess that the aircraft floated high enough that water in the wheel well was not a problem — and that the compartment was sealed so any water there did not enter the aircraft itself.

PBYs were the most extensively used ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of the Second World War, and were also used in the Indian Ocean, flying from the Seychelles and from Ceylon. By 1943, U-boats were well-armed with anti-aircraft guns and two Victoria Crosses were won by Catalina pilots pressing home their attacks on U-boats in the face of heavy fire.

Sitting next to the PBY was a BAC Jet Provost T3, a jet trainer used by the British RAF from 1955 to 1963. The T3 featured a more powerful engine, ejector seats, redesigned airframe and shorter but stronger landing gear than its predecessor.

This line of trainers proved to be most capable and eventually 741 were built and put into service. Additional developments encouraged the RAF to utilize the Jet Provost in a number of different roles besides basic training. With a top speed of 440 mph, excellent maneuverability, mechanical reliability and low operating costs, the Jet Provost was utilized as an aerobatic aircraft, for air warfare and tactical weapons training as well as advanced training.

Besides service with the RAF, the Jet Provost found success in export markets. Jet Provosts were withdrawn from RAF service in the early 1990s and replaced by Short Tucanos. The Jet Provost remains popular among enthusiasts and, since it is an inexpensive jet, many are now in private hands. Some are flown at air shows.

This aircraft is a A/B-26 Invader (originally designated A-26 then later changed to B-26 leading to confusion with the Martin B-26 Marauder). It sits on the airport property but is not part of the museum. The aircraft is a United States twin-engined light attack bomber built by the Douglas Aircraft Co. during World War II that also saw service during several of the Cold War's major conflicts.

The A-26B had a "solid" nose, which originally could be equipped with a combination of anything from .50 caliber machine guns, 37mm auto cannon, 20mm or even a 75mm pack howitzer, but normally the solid nose version housed six (or later eight) .50 caliber machine guns, officially termed the "all-purpose nose", later commonly known as the "six-gun nose" or "eight-gun nose". The A-26C's "glass" nose, officially termed the "Bombardier nose", contained a Norden bombsight for medium-altitude precision bombing.

The B-26 saw action in WWII, post war, the Korean War, the First Indochina War, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. After retiring from military action, this aircraft saw additional service in fighting forest fires. As I understand it, this particular aircraft is no longer flight-worthy and is only for display.


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com