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Revell 1/48 PBY-5A (OA-10A) Catalina Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2008 Manufacturer Revell
Subject PBY-5A (OA-10A) Catalina Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5617 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best PBY in any scale Cons Peacetime USAF decals and wartime USN/USAAF instructions
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $33.75

First Look


The PBY (Patrol Bomber - Consolidated Aircraft) Catalina was a flying boat designed in the early 1930s to be used as a combat aircraft in the Pacific where there were few runways to supposed land-based aircraft. First flown in 1936, the early PBYs were simply flying patrol boats that were armed with a variety of machine guns, bombs, and depth charges. Wheels could be attached to the hull of the PBY to bring the aircraft on shore for maintenance.

The PBY, while slow, was one of the most adaptable aircraft of World War II, serving not only as a patrol bomber, it was also effective in anti-submarine warfare, air-sea rescue, convoy escorts, long-range reconnaissance, and as a transport for supplies, mail and personnel. The PBY served not only the US Navy, but also the USAAF, the RCAF, RAF Coastal Command, RAAF, Soviet Air Force, and numerous others during World War II. After the war, Catalinas entered service in many other countries, and would still soldier on in uniform well into the 1980s.

The PBY was incrementally improved progressively more engine horsepower and additional fuel capacity, but the most significant improvement to the type came with the PBY-5A, which gained the 1,200 horsepower engines of the PBY-5, and the first application of retractable landing gear, which gave the Catalina its first amphibious capability for land and sea operations. After World War II, the USAAF retained many of its PBY-5As (designated as OA-10) for air-sea rescue duties around the world. PBY-5As produced by Vickers Canada were designated as OA-10A in USAAF/USAF service.

Revell has re-issued the 1/48 PBY-5A at long last! I remember when the PBY-5 kit was first released, what 20 years ago? It was the version without the retractable landing gear, but the kit did provide the beaching gear so it could sit dignified on the shelf on its wheels. I build this kit and I thoroughly enjoyed the project, though there are a few lessons learned I'll share with you. Revell-Monogram followed up the PBY-5 with a PBY-5A a year or two later, and then a Pro-Modeler version with the updated front turret and 'Black Cat' markings. I believe this is the first we've seen this tooling since the Pro-Modeler release many moons ago.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on four large parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The detailing is still pre-scribed lines, but the raised details are petite and do not detract at all from the project. The kit is not very complex, but does have a number of features to keep it interesting:

  • Detailed flight deck
  • Detailed observer/waist gunner area
  • Positionable waist guns
  • Positionable side blisters
  • Positionable detailed landing gear (PBY-5A only)
  • Detailed beaching gear (PBY-5 only)
  • Choice of single gun or twin-gun nose turrets (update from Pro-Modeler release)
  • Weighted wheels (update from Pro-Modeler release)
  • Positionable wing floats
  • Optional ADF dome antenna (update from Pro-Modeler release)
  • Optional ADF loop antenna (original release)
  • Optional depth charges

As I mentioned above, this kit was a fun build. At that time, I didn't attempt to droop the elevators, though that is one detail that is natural in a display, though when the aircraft was stowed/secured, the flight controls were locked in neutral, so leaving the control surfaces alone is not unnatural either.

This model is a serious tail-sitter with the significant amount of weight aft of the main gear. The kit provides a clear strut to hold the tail up should you want to go that route, but they also show where to put the ballast in the nose. What they don't tell you is how much ballast.

With the bulkheads that are provided in the fuselage as part of the interior detail, the assembled fuselage is sturdy and will tolerate handling. The one weak area in the kit is that huge wing. The way that Revell-Monogram engineered the wing was brilliant - two lower halves that mate to three upper sections. The overlapping sections provide greater strength in the completed model, however, it still isn't very tolerant of handling the model when you pick up the PBY by the wing. I heard that sickening 'snap' more than once as a seam would give under the weight of the model.

It didn't take me very long to engineer a countermeasure - simply build up the wing around a very long Plastruct I-beam to serve as the wing main spar. Two would even be better. The main spar(s) would keep the wing from flexing the joints beyond their tolerance and keep you from hearing that awful seam 'snap'. This next PBY-5A project will indeed have a main spar installed.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • OA-10A Catalina, 44-33924, San Francisco CA, Jun 1948
  • OA-10A Catalina, 44-33939, 4th ARS, Hamilton AFB, CA

This kit remains the best Catalina kit in any scale to date. It is nice to see this release retain the upgrades from the previous Pro-Modeler release. The parts are all in the box to do a wartime PBY-5A, but you'll have to find some post-war photographs to depict this aircraft in its air-sea rescue configuration without all of the armament. Our walk around of the OA-10A at the National Museum of the USAF is a good starting point (link below).