If you’re of a certain age this aircraft probably means something special to you. Certainly if you were alive during WWII you know all about this aircraft and the role it played in every theatre of operations. Even if you were born fifteen years ago chances are you know something about this aircraft, and you can still see a few of these aircraft operating near major forest fires – over 70 years after being built. Something to consider here, but while many aircraft are called “iconic” – perhaps very few truly deserve the term as much as The Cat does, and I think it holds a place in the heart of many aviators for good reason.
Yep. That’s the nickname bestowed upon this bird a long time ago…the Consolidated Vultee PBY 5 Catalina. Consolidated Vultee? Never heard of it? Well, think of the letters C & V, then think Convair, then General Dynamics, and then you know who these guys are, right? In a roundabout way this aircraft shares a few genes with B36 bombers and F16s, and that these genes were forged in war.
So, you know the Catalina was a Search and Rescue bird, right? We’ve all seen the pictures of downed airmen bobbing around in a dinky yellow raft being scooped up by a Cat…but did you know she was also tasked in the anti-submarine warfare role too?
Well, it’s true, and the images above are of a German u-boat being bracketed by not just any Catalina, but by the one this ACF is modeled on. We’ll have more on this below, but be prepared to abandon a few cherished stereotypes along the way!
Because the Cat was used for a lot more than just SAR duties, and she was in many ways a forerunner of the P3C Orion. And what makes this file so interesting is that this is an exercise in capturing a slice in time – so accurately that you too can have a chance at experiencing what one particular Cat was like.
You’ll find the panel and cockpit in this ACF to be as fully realized as the exterior, which is to say it appears accurately scaled and nicely textured, but a lot of ACF are and anyway, this wasn’t the real point behind making this file. The point, if I may be so blunt, was to preserve a real aircraft in such a way that more can share in the experience of her. You’ll need to think about this idea for a moment because it represents something quite different than the average ACF purchase in XP. You’ll have to understand that this ACF represents a painstaking recreation of not just a real series of aircraft – but just one aircraft. One very real PBY that is still in service, true, but also one that the developer is intimately involved with. Because, you see, the developer is deeply involved with this aircraft’s preservation, and he’s had access to her in a way that few have.
You could call this a labor of love, but there’s more to it than that. Let’s take a look.
The cockpit and panel of this ACF represent something not ordinarily found in recreations for an ACF from this time period: almost 100% physical accuracy. From dimensions to panel elements, generally speaking everything you see in the ACF is scaled as it is in the real aircraft. Controls are placed exactly as in the real bird. Knobs and levers: ditto.
Night lighting: as it is in the real bird. Muted. Conceived for warfare.
And it looks good in XP9 (above) and in XP10 (below), though panel lighting in 10 is still WIP.
This is one of those files that will frustrate or annoy if you simply fail to read the manual, and it will do so in the same manner as XPFR’s B17G or even K&A’s Trojan. The engines’ operating parameters have been faithfully modeled in this ACF and failing to read the manuals will just lead from one mistake to the next – unless you’re already very familiar with heavy piston engine OPS – and getting into the aircraft and ramming the throttles to the stops, and expecting to get anywhere that way, is a horrible mistake…on many levels.
You just have to accept that this ACF is not about “instant gratification” – but about learning, and experiencing what it was like to handle these old beasts. The fun to be had in a file like this is found by “getting into it”, by trying to understand the operating principles of heavy piston engines and discovered things like the relationship between barometric pressure and engine performance. It’s about learning to be a pilot, about loving flight so much that you just want to know more. Files like this will reward you for your time, and you’ll soon understand that there can indeed be very rich experiences in a flight SIM. Spend a few weeks in this Catalina and you’ll be a better pilot because of all you’ve learned, and you’ll also soon come to appreciate that there are really very few files of this nature.
Let’s begin your relationship by scoping out some of the engine controls you’ll be getting intimately familiar with: the Mixture and Prop controls, and unlike most other aircraft these are ceiling mounted and the mixture controls are not at all easy to see. There’s a green arrow pointing to the control cluster just below, and immediately below this image you’ll see the sequence of four positions required for correct operation. Fail to get the Mixture set correctly, or the manifold pressure (via props and throttle), or the Cowl Flaps opened or closed as needed and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by smoldering engines and your speed going down faster than you ever thought possible. Given that the PBY has the aerodynamic properties of a brick you’ll also come to appreciate that you ain’t gonna be gliding very far…and given too that you’ll probably screw the pooch while taking off you might not be dealing with a whole lot of altitude to begin with. Ram the throttles to the stops on take off and you won’t have to worry about any altitude considerations…because the engines will explode long before you can rotate…on land or at sea.
In other words: RTFM. Study. Prepare to be frustrated…until you finally reach that “a-ha!” moment.
You’ll do best if you operate these controls with functions mapped to a stick – as simply getting in position to operate the Mixture settings via manipulator will drive you to an early grave – after just one attempt! Even after you do get it mapped you’ll still need to look up on the overhead cluster and verify correct settings visually, same with Props and Cowl Flaps, so know what these look like before you try to fly or be prepared to ditch or crash.
If you’re getting the impression that this is a hard aircraft to fly…it’s not. Like any other aircraft you simply need to understand it’s basic operating parameters and use the aircraft within those boundaries. Do so and you’ll find that this Cat purrs magnificently.
Another thing to consider: there are several different and distinct ACF included with this purchase – eight to be exact – and each has unique interior and/or panel layouts (one with Garmin GPS units), so don’t feel you’ll be consigned to simple VOR navigation with this ACF:
The purchased file includes military and civilian passenger variants, as well as a couple of fire-fighter variants. You’ll not be bored with this purchase! Again…there are eight different ACF variants included…and each represents a life in this Cat’s evolution.
Of course, flying this one is just a part of the equation…a good part indeed… but there’s a lot more about this ACF to stand back and take notice of. Details, details, details…everywhere you look…finely executed details! As you can see in these two images, the glass over your head slides aft to open – pilot’s side or co-pilot’s – and the side glass windows slides as well.
The military model seen here has a forward navigators compartment, complete with a sighting window for celestial navigation chores, and note the engine cowl flaps open (below, and note they’re labeled cowl “gills” on the panel, and they’re referred to as such in the documentation, as well).
The “waist gunner blisters” are nicely modeled, and they’re operable too. You can roam at will in this interior, and it’s sorta fun to do so too!
Above, the blisters are seen in the closed position, while below these windows are retracted into the open position.
And here’s the view from the waist gunners position inside the cabin:
Real pilots had to do a little climbing to get topside – or up on the wings – to check the fuel, and there’s even an observation port on the way up there! Nicely done indeed.
The military version below has a rough interior, the passenger versions are a little more polished. All are well done and thoroughly detailed.
The ACF is delivered with a number of liveries, and these are NOT just haphazardly included and as mentioned reflect the different “lives” this particular Catalina lived during her military and civilian career. As such, each livery is a separate ACF, with different panels and interior arrangements.
In addition, there are a number of excellent liveries available for the ACF at the Org, including these standout efforts:
- RAF Coastal Command
- US Navy N9521C
- US Navy “Black Cat” (and try this film)
- Ecuador Air Force
- Vingtor LN-OAR
- US Coast Guard
- US Navy (early version)
- GreenPeace N423RS
In practice, once you’ve mastered basic engine OPS you’ll find this Cat to be a docile, slow moving aircraft that responds to a gentle touch, but that can take a little abuse too…as long as you take care of those engines!
If you’re interested in or “into” either amphibians or WWII aircraft this is kind of a must have file. While not 100% XP10 compliant right now a revision is in the works and the file works quite well in that environment – until it gets dark outside! The file works beautifully in XP9 and wasn’t hard on framerates.
We’ll give this one a “most highly recommended” rating – assuming you like this kind of aircraft. If unfamiliar with heavy seaplanes this is an admirable introduction, and your purchase will help preserve the real aircraft. All in all, not a bad deal at all.
The file is currently priced from less than 20USD to about 23USD, and is available now through the following vendors:
Kind of a tradition at times around Chaos Manor, but when we run across a new ACF we try to get in touch with the developer and have them give us a little background about the design. We always enjoy this part of the job, and hope you do too! Today we’ll be talking with Olivier Faivre about the real Catalina used in his design, and so about the real aircraft his work is based on. Let’s see what he has to say.
xp+10+reviews: Olivier, first of all, a belated congratulations on the PBY! This is quite a challenging ACF to master and at the same time a real beauty to behold. As a way of kicking this off, would you tell us where your interests in aviation come from, and how you came to be involved in designing aircraft files for X-Plane?
Olivier : Thanks ! Well, my family is not especially attracted to aviation so my interest took another way In fact, a friend bought a great game where it was possible to take a Cessna or a Learjet and to flight her all over the world freely, without mission or stuff like that : Flight Simulator 5. That was the revelation !
Then, Flight simulator 98, and 2000, and in the mean time I have bought X-Plane 5, always with the same friend. It was quite expensive at this time, especially for teenagers… Also I bought Flight Unlimited 1 (which was sooo great) and 2, and both Fly! 1 and 2.
I began to build aircraft soon thereafter, for FS5, with Flight Shop. The internet was not so well developed at this time so I have kept theses files for myself. And guess what, I had already made a Catalina during this period !
In 2001, I have discovered X-Plane.fr and I never looked back… We have created with this bunch of friends xpfr.scenery and later, XPFR.org, which I don’t need to introduce I assume
I have also created my own website, hydroz.net, to present my projects and to give a home to my documentation list.
xp+10+reviews: So, besides the Catalina, what other aircraft have you designed?
Olivier : My first aircraft for X-Plane 6 was a Canadair CL-415, based on Jean Loup Robert’s one. After doing some update up to V7, I began to work on a…Catalina, yes again! Not again in fact, Ever ! I have quickly reached the limit of plane-maker with this aircraft and begin to search other way to improve the model. Then, I discovered Blender and the wonderful script by Marginal and begin to learn how to use these programs. During this learning, I have made a Fournier RF-4, nice motor-glider, and a Grumman Mallard, which I really love. Both were not really optimized and are in need of a serious polish, if not need to be completely rebuilt…
Then, the Zenith series, with the CH701 and the CH750 (I LOVE this one). Note that CH750 was made on Zenith Aircraft’s demand, for advertising purpose. It is available freely, under a CC-by-sa license.
xp+10+reviews: Which of your aircraft designs is your favorite? Why?
Olivier : Do I really need to answer
In fact, I have a big preference for amphibians and propeller engines so a big twin old prop with such an history !
xp+10+reviews: I take it you have an interest in designing other things besides aircraft? Can you tell us more about that? Do you for instance design commercial products?
Olivier : Well, in the “real life”, I’m a mechanical designer, mainly designing gantries, conveyors and special machines for automotive industry. I work with Solidworks, which is a parametric 3D CAD software, and a little with Autocad, a 2D CAD software. Therefore, I’m quite comfortable with drawings, reading and technical stuff, which can be helpful sometimes while modeling aircraft.
xp+10+reviews: Can you talk a little about the design process in X-Plane? How do you go about preparing to make a new aircraft design like the Catalina?
Olivier : First step, most important, the Plane-maker model. You have to use smartly all the possibilities of PM in order to reproduce as far as possible the characteristic of your aircraft. A beautiful model with a bad flight model is just a shame. You must study POH, curves, data-sheets, all the docs that come in your hand to reproduce the behaviour of the craft. Then, you can build the external 3D and the cockpit, texture, custom sounds, scripts or whatever. But PM IS the key.
xp+10+reviews: Was it difficult to find material to use to develop the airfoils and other key components of the Catalina? Some designers have said this is the hardest part of the process… Do you agree with that? Or are their other aspects that are more troublesome?
Olivier : It’s often easier to find documentation for old aircraft than for modern ones. Being part of the association that manages a real one helps a lot too One of the hardest things to find is good 3 views drawings. Find two sets and compare, they’re always different, sometime in large proportion. Finding the blueprints is the best you can achieve, but that’s quite hard to find and often too expensive for a single guy.
xp+10+reviews: What programs do you utilize to make your designs? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these programs?
Olivier : I mainly use Blender 2.49b, Gimp and LibreOffice. In fact, I try to use as many software as I can, to be able to share those sources without force people to buy expensive, source closed, software. Blender is incredibly powerful and his main weakness…is me
xp+10+reviews: What advice would you give someone thinking about designing aircraft for X-Plane? What mistakes did you make when you were learning to design aircraft, and what would you do differently if you were starting over now?
Olivier : You will need a good and complete documentation to build a good aircraft. That’s the key. And a lot of patience too, because it is a loooong process, even more while playing with 3D cockpit and Plug-in like SASL. Don’t try to make an A380 as your first aircraft. An old single prop engine seems to be a good choice. No complex systems, just fun.
xp+10+reviews: So, back to the Catalina. Your ACF is based on a real aircraft. Can you tell us about this aircraft? Who owns it, and what is it used for?
Olivier : The birth of Catalina 9767 is interesting in itself. ‘9767’ is born from an American father and a Canadian mother.
In 1942 Boeing was licensed by the Consolidated company to build Catalinas on Sea Island, Vancouver, Canada. Consolidated out of San Diego sent up the equipment and parts necessary to build 55 “Boeing Flying Boats”; American parts put together by Canadian workers. Of all the amphibious aircraft build in the Sea Island plant ‘9767’ is the sole survivor. She still graces the sky and occasionally stirs the waters. She is the last of the Boeing Flying Boats.
xp+10+reviews: Can you tell us about your personal experiences in this aircraft?
Olivier : After doing the second version of the Cat, I tried to find information about a specific one, the C-FCRR. I emailed the owner, Alain M, and oh surprise, I was at Paris Orly the next week, contemplating the beast in her hangar !
Since this great day, we had always keep in touch and progressively, I have made myself essential for Alain I have made several mechanical studies for the Cat, including a major piece…the fuel dipstick. Many users of the add-on complain about the lack of fuel gauge on the panel, but ask the real pilot how they know the fuel remaining in a Catalina ? You have to do a lot of exercise in order to access the fuel cap, on top of the wing, 10 meters above ground…
xp+10+reviews: Was this aircraft involved in any wartime adventures or heroics?
Olivier : Catalina 9767’s legend began when she was delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Canso A, the Canadian designation for ‘Catalina’. She ended up in the 162 Squadron as aircraft ‘S’. On the 17th of April 1944 she saw some serious action, doing what she was meant to do, which is sinking enemy submarines.
While on patrol southwest of Iceland, under command of Capt. Tom Cook, ‘S’ encountered the German U-boat (submarine) U-342. This U boat was on her maiden voyage and had sailed from Bergen, Norway, 2 weeks earlier. The U-boats crew of 54, under the command of Oberleutnant Albert Hossenfelder, never saw the homeland again.
Well after the war, in 1946, number 9767 was acquired by Canadian Pacific Airlines to be registered as C-FCRR. During it’s fourteen-year tour of duty with Canadian Pacific Airlines, it flew as a passenger and freight aircraft with the fleet numbers 233 and 933. With CPA she lost all her military equipment, her shortened nose, her armament and her camouflage paintjob for a red, blue and silver livery to mark her new civilian life. Just before being disposed of by Canadian Pacific Airlines, on 23 April 1959, CF-CRR suffered substantial damage in a crosswind water landing at Terrace, BC, and as a result, the Canso had to divert to the nearby land airport and make a nose-wheel-up landing.
After Canadian Pacific Airlines our Boeing build flying boat saw many other owners like Northland Airlines, Midwest Airlines and Ilford Riverton Airways. In 1977 she was purchased by Avalon Aviation to be used as a water bomber and stationed in Red Deer, Alberta. Later she was called to Parry Sound, Ontario and it was there that she entered long-term storage when Avalon ceased operations in the late 1980’s.
Firebombing is not without hazards and while operating as a fire bomber our Catalina was involved in two noteworthy accidents. The first one was at Sylvan Lake, Alberta, on 27th of May 1978, when serious damage was sustained after stalling onto the water whilst carrying out water pick-up training. The aircraft was beached before it sank. The outer section of the starboard wing was destroyed in this incident and was replaced with an unused wartime component complete with original RCAF roundels!
The second accident took place on the 30th of May 1981, when the left hand nose wheel door tore off during a water pick-up on Complex Lake, NWT. The aircraft nosed down and sank but was salvaged to fly again! Further, an overrun happened on take-off from an airfield in Saskatchewan that resulted in the damaged airframe having to be airlifted out by helicopter, and a nose wheel collapse on landing in the mid-1980s. All in all, the Avalon days were an eventful period!
Yeah, this ‘Cat’ was working her way through her nine lives like there was no tomorrow!
During her time in storage at Parry Sound, several purchase attempts were made by groups keen to preserve the Catalina because of its wartime history. All attempts failed but during the winter of 1994 Franklin Devaux of the Dijon based Canadian Air Legend group acquired it. In the spring of 1995, C-FCRR left Canada for France. Upon arrival, it was initially overhauled at Dinard by “LAB” (now Sabena Technics). She had her blisters replaced on the aft hull and other overhaul work carried out by Tom Reilly of Kissimmee, Florida. Then the Cat flew to Toulouse, where she was re-painted by “Aerospatiale” in a grey and blue scheme for her new operation.
In October 1995, she was used as a flying TV studio in a French TV natural history series called “Operation Okavango”, which took place in Africa. Its initial destination was Djibouti, followed by the Comoro Islands, then Kenya and Ethiopia.
During 18 months, she flew under the harshest of conditions and got no damage at all! Well, she did crack a cylinder with one rather pleasant outcome: A much welcome rest for the crew…for a few hours. After a few weeks at Harare in Zimbabwe, C-FCRR returned to France and was named “Capt Tom Cooke” after its illustrious wartime captain who sank U-342. On 23rd of August 1998 the Catalina was repainted in Air France colours, christened “Princesse des Etoiles” and flown to Le Bourget, Paris. She was then dismantled by Mark Edwards, previously involved in the African “Operation Okavango” filming, and trucked to the “Place de la Concorde” on the “Champs Elysées”. She was placed on public display, throughout September, with a great number of other vintage aeroplanes, to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of the “Aéroclub de France”.
After the anniversary the “Princesse” was taken back to Le Bourget for re-assembly, after which she was flown south for her next adventure; a transatlantic flight to Chile and Brazil via West Africa! This epic flight was to commemorate the Aéropostale mail flights flown by Jean Mermoz between France and Dakar, Sénégal, which began around 1930. The Catalina left Toulouse on 14th of October and by the 28th of November 1998, C-FCRR had arrived in Santiago de Chile.
The flight to Brazil was made on the 3rd of December. Then C-FCRR flew north and spent some time at Oshawa, Ontario, where maintenance was carried out before leaving on 8th of June 1999. C-FCRR crossed the Northern Atlantic via Reykjavik and Shannon, before arriving at Dinard in Brittany, France. A few weeks later, she was being kept busy as an aerial camera platform so people could photograph a total eclipse of the sun.
This long history will be completed soon by stories told be former pilots of 9767, and these will be included in the ACF manual as soon as they become available, so stay tuned!
xp+10+reviews: You’ve decided to use some of your profits from the sale of this aircraft file to be used to support the real aircraft. Is the real aircraft in trouble, or in need of financial assistance?
Olivier : Shade has disappeared today and « 9767 » has changed her Canadian registration from C-FCRR to an American one, « N9767 ». She was then based at Orly-Airport in south of Paris. Mark Edwards, from AirVenture Ltd did the last phase of maintenance and preparation to get the US certification. Before this there has been extensive maintenance, thanks to the French, Canadian & American engineers (Jim VanDyk, Peter Houghton, George Perez & Patrice Sublemontier) and the volunteers of Air France Industries. After the aircraft’s arrival at Orly, they gave 9767 a new engine, new propellers, upgraded avionics, overhauled hydraulics, control cables, and a lot more. Almost all of 9767’s parts have been checked & replaced as and when necessary. The outcome is a testimony to the mechanic’s work. Plans were made to fly N9767 from Orly to its new base at Melun-Villaroche, and on the 22nd of December 2010 the Princess took off…
Since the aircraft flies overhead during airshow season in Europe, and sometimes with a few problems … necessarily, this type of aircraft, due to its age and especially the fact that she has been “grounded” for long periods, requires great attention … and some financial means!
The team develops, besides the activity of airshows, media operations to gather the money necessary for the survival of the aircraft. And this is not easy!
xp+10+reviews: So, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this ACF goes to support the real aircraft, but what if someone prefers to provide more assistance than that. Is there a way for a donor to step forward and help out in a more direct manner?
Olivier : The easiest way to help the aircraft is joining the Association AOF (Angels One-Five) … Anyone may join the association, or make donations for those who want or can and … simply join us so to participate in the life of the Cat! The association can bring some financial means to help preserve the aircraft, but also to open the Catalina for everyone to experience… This is the main reason, which has always existed … and it is also thanks to this approach, based on this openness, that I was able to access the plane and in a way this lead to the development of this add-on, as with all the information otherwise impossible to obtain I was able to bring a nice level of realism to the project!
You can find more information about all this at the following links…
Angels One-Five: http://www.facebook.com/AngelsOneFive
And you can download forms for membership for AOF from the website (currently “in progress”): www.angelsonefive.com
And of course, full membership information is included in the purchased download as well.
xp+10+reviews: What are your plans now that the Catalina is complete? Will you make another aircraft file for X-Plane?
Olivier : An X-Plane aircraft is never complete, thanks to Austin And I have a lot of ideas for further updates to the Catalina, along with V10 compatibility of course. No need to say that theses updates will be free to all the previous customers.
I have also started a new project, a Zenith aircraft CH650, again for Zenith advertising. It will be plug-in driven and it will be freeware (i.e., free of charge and open-source). I have some other projects, some freeware, some payware, but it’s too early to speak of them just yet.
I must also “put in order” the large amount of documentation sent in by fellow aircraft enthusiasts to update my list (available on hydroz.net).
Below, images of the real aircraft’s panel, and with one of her pilots – from the 1950s! – and back for a visit!!!
Well, we’ll be signing off now, but we think you should give this file due consideration. Again, you’ll be supporting a worthy cause and a talented developer as well, and that’s a hard combination to beat.
Thanks for joining us today, and we’ll see you again next time. Chip & Simon