1/144 Academy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

Gallery Article by Orlando Sucre Rosales on July 2 2019



Hello, fellow modelers and readers!

This is my first submission of this year, and is about a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, undoubtedly the most famous amphibian aircraft of all times, because it performed very well in many military and civilian duties in several countries for more than two decades.

The 1-144 kit of this aircraft from Academy is one of the best kits in this scale that I've seen, notably for its very well done recessed panel lines and the good average fit of the pieces. Nevertheless, it has several low points:

  • The parts for the main landing gear and float retraction struts are very fragile, and some of these parts came warped, at least in my sample (I broke one of the float retraction struts trying to fix its warping.)
  • A big hole was molded on the main wing leading edge place where the pitot tube should be, and the pitot tube isn't included.
  • The kit includes strange exhausts that I've never seen in any other Catalina, full size or kit.
  • No underwing armament is included for the WWII version.
  • The top fuselage radome type radar antenna for the OA-10A postwar SAR version isn't included.
  • The fit of the rear observation canopies over the fuselage isn't good.
  • Although clear parts are included for the fuselage rectangular windows, they don't fit flush with the fuselage outer surfaces, so holes is what can be seen from the outside.
  • The decals were printed by Cartograph, but the red in the decals is too dark, and no serial numbers were included for the WWII version.

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Although the OA-10A version from the kit is the eye-catching one, I chose to build the WWII PBY-5A version mainly because I hadn't yet any aircraft sporting early war US aircraft insignias.

The assembly of the kit began with the interior of the cockpit, which includes a floor with two seats and two control columns. After painting and gluing these parts on their places, together with the fuselage rectangular windows, I filled all the available space inside the front fuselage halves with lead shot, and then glued the fuselage halves together.

The assembly continued until I had the fuselage with the rear horizontal stabilizers and the main wing with the floats as separate subassemblies. I left the undercarriage and the engines for final installation, however, I glued the engine nacelles on their places with small drops of white glue to ease the painting process.

Before beginning the painting stage, I added a scratchbuilt pitot tube on the main wing port leading edge, and three scratchbuilt masts for the antennas, two over the main wing and one on top of the rear fuselage, all of these were made of thin guitar string wire. I also filled the whole that was molded in place of the pitot tube. I had the clever idea of using the plastic that covers the copper wire from a telephonic cable to make scratchbuilt exhausts for the engines: it's flexible, it has the appropriate diameter and it's hollow. I cut four pieces of the same size, bent them a little and glued them with CA glue on the recesses provided for the kit's exhaust pieces. I think that my scratchbuilt exhausts look good, although in the end their separation over each engine nacelle is bigger than it should be.

I painted the undersurfaces with MM FS-36440 Light Gull Gray, mixed with white for scale effect. For the upper surfaces I used MM Navy Blue Gray instead of the blue suggested in the kit's instructions, which is correct only for the postwar version. A very difficult task was to mask and paint the de-icing black strips on the main wing, rudder and stabilizers leading edges.

Then I highlighted the panel lines with an F drawing pencil, and then I sprayed two coats of gloss clear for decal preparation. Decals were rather stiff and didn't adhere well to the surfaces even though I used a strong decal solvent, so I had to cut the decals after they were dry with a No. 11 knife in several places to show the panel lines underneath.

The application of the flat clear was troublesome. I had an old bottle of Polly Scale Flat Clear and I thought I could use it, but when it dried it left a whitish finish that almost ruined the painted surfaces and the decals, the model then looked like a heavily weathered, perhaps abandoned, aircraft. I had to brush paint the Navy Blue Gray in several places, the whole de-icing black strips that were so difficult to mask and paint previously, and the red circles and strips of the national insignias.

When all the painting was done, I went into final assembly. The assembly of the main undercarriage was very difficult, and so was the gluing of the main wing over the fuselage, because it's hard to get a 90 angle between the wing and the rudder (I had to make it twice.) A sad thing is that despite all the weight that I put inside the front fuselage halves, the model still is a tail sitter, so I had to use an inconspicuous clear plastic piece located under the belly to make the model sit on its three wheels.

Well, I'm truly satisfied with the finished model despite all the unexpected problems I had to solve, and I hope you'll appreciate it.

Greetings from Caracas, Venezuela, a country that was driven into a 90 dive into the void many years ago by mad pilots, and nobody in the crew seems to know now how to activate the dive brakes properly.

Orlando Sucre Rosales

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Photos and text by Orlando Sucre Rosales