Join Engineering Heritage Victoria for this presentation about the vital role played by the Catalina Flying Boats in the War in the Pacific and how engineers ensured that these planes were kept flying.
The Catalina flying boat was considered to be somewhat of a compromise when it was selected for service by many air forces and navies at the beginning of World War II, However in service it proved to be tough, dependable and versatile.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) made an early decision to buy the Catalina. The first batch was ordered in August 1940 and delivered between February and October 1941. The RAAF eventually acquired 168 Catalinas and formed four squadrons, several air sea rescue flights and some ancillary units. They were retired soon after the end of the War and most were disposed into civilian service.
During the War most of the Catalinas served in the Islands to the north of Australia, operating from bases in Queensland and the Northern Territory and later from forward bases as the tide turned. The Catalinas were a menace to the Japanese as their primary role was the mining of harbours where Japanese forward bases were located. They also dropped bombs and torpedos, carried out reconnaissance, supplied regular troops operating behind enemy lines and performed air sea rescue services for Allied crews.
The greatest operational feature of the Catalina was its extreme range with an endurance up to 31 hours flying time, depending on the load carried.
There was always concern that the aircraft was particularly vulnerable to enemy attack as it was slow, not highly manoeuvrable and not heavily armed with defensive weapons. Most of the aircrafts were painted matt black which made them very difficult to see in their typical ‘night raider’ sortie. This is why they were called the Black Cats.
Owen spent his working life in the utility industry, mostly in the Power and Water Corporation (and its predecessors) in the Northern Territory. He is now retired and engaged full time as an engineering heritage practitioner. His positions include Past Chair of the National Board of Engineering Heritage Australia, Immediate Past Chair of Engineering Heritage Victoria and Australasian Editor for the International Stationary Steam Engine Society.
This session is worth up to 1.5 Engineers Australia CPD Hours.