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Thread: Seeking info on Catalina AJ155

  1. #21
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    David, thanks for the interesting posts. Would you happen to know how long a Catalina I with no internal or external ferry tanks could remain airborne on patrol at 2,000 feet if it were armed with four 250-pound depth charges or bombs?


    Thanks,

    Rob

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    Rob:
    According to Royal Air Force, Volume 2 (Richards and Saunders), the endurance of a Catalina I flown at economical cruising speed to 'tanks dry' with 2,000b of depth charges was 17.6 hours or 25 hours with no weapon load. Operational planning was based on 25% less. I would assume a cruising altitude of around 2,000 feet as most Coastal ops were flown at no more than 3,000 feet.
    Regards:
    Robert

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    Default All great stuff

    Hi gents:
    I really like the way this thread has developed over the last little while. I for one am certainly learning lots. Many thanks all around.

    I'll try to backtrack and answer any questions I can, from the materials presently at hand, over the next little while. One thing that does come to mind in a very general way immediately is the distinct difference between fuel systems in the Catalina I and later marques, including amphibians. I don't have it nearby at the moment, but I remember distinctly reading about the aux. fuel system setup, IIRC comprising four tanks and one master valve/pump arrangement, in a MAP Air Publication that I have on the Mk.I. Incidentally this same AP also distinguishes certain systems (including fuel?) between early Mk.I/IB/II and later Mk.IV. Minor differences, which do not include any fuel system bits as far as I recall, are also noted between the three early subtypes. As you may know, all of these Catalina subtypes are pure flying boats.

    I also have similar manuals for early and late PBY-5A amphipians. No mention is made of aux. fuel tanks within the hull… at least the very detailed fuel system maintenance and operations sections make no mention of it.

    More from "inductive reasoning" (a sometimes dubious affair historically speaking) than anything else, and in lieu of diagrams in the AP, my guess is that the Mk.I aux. fuel system, when installed, was located between hull stations 4 and 5. Diagrams and descriptions usually have this space reserved for flame / smoke floats on operational (vice ferry configured) aircraft. This also explains why their is no mention of it in the amphibian documentation since a large proportion of that space is taken up by the main wheel wells.

    David…
    I was very interested in reading your account of early a/c as this agrees with the AP nicely. I was surprised to learn of the "wet" wing you mention for later a/c though. I had thought this was a feature of the one producers (I forget which) run of USAAF OA-10A machines only. I believe there is also a photo of a USCG OA-10A (equivalent) featuring external wing tanks as well. Do you have a serial identity of such an a/c in RNZAF service? I would love to have it to narrow down the ongoing research here.

    One final thought cluster for today on AJ155s configuration during that famous last sortie…
    • judging by another early a/c's loadout in a photo (W8406 AXD of 205) they do appear to have had the earlier 450lb Mk.VII D/Cs and large sea markers (200-250 lb class?) in the East Indies at the time. Given the GR presence being built up there since Malaya and Singapore days, I wouldn't be surprised if 250lb A/S bombs were in use as well. The period is correct for these weapons but somewhat too early for the later 250lb D/Cs. Given the mission, I'm in favour of 4 of these as the likely load.
    • Somewhere (Arthur Banks excellent "Wings of the Dawning" maybe?) there is a detailed account of the actions inside AJ155 as she was being attacked. I believe it is based, for the most part, on an interview with Catlin and possibly supplemented by others. Whatever the case, it may offer up some clues as to whether or not the aux. tank setup was present.
    • Regarding the difference in reports on this installation from Birchall and Catlin, hte log page holds no clue. However – and again I resort to the dubious art of guessing – my bets would be on the aircraft's flight engineer being the best to maintain accuracy with that kind of detail.
    Cheers for now and thanks again one and all for the excellent thread,
    Terry

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    Terry,

    Thanks for your wide-ranging posting. I would agree with you that normally one would defer to the flight engineer rather than the pilot on a question such as whether or not extra fuel tanks were fitted. However, in this case it may be the recollections of Brian Catlin 50 to 60 years after the event versus accounts recorded by Birchall when he was still a young man. Furthermore, Catlin has claimed that QL-A was carrying bombs (or depth charges) when it was shot down, and there is evidence to support him, and as Robert points out the endurance of a Catalina I was less than 18 hours on such a mission when so armed. (Thanks Robert!) If Birchall was wrong to say that ferry tanks were fitted then he was also wrong to say that QL-A was due to land after first light on 5 April, since it could not have stayed aloft that long without the ferry tanks. Note that QL-A was shot down 360 miles from Ceylon, and a little further than that from Koggala, less than two hours before last light. It could not have made it back to Koggala before last light. It seems to me that the evidence supports Birchall's claim that QL-A was carrying ferry tanks, but I'd say that this is not yet proven.

    Wings of the Dawning says that on the morning of 4 April "In the dark the crew and Birchall, with no breakfast, were taken down to the jetty on the lake to prepare for a 24-hour flight. Because there had been no time to practice night landings on this hazardous take-off area, the Catalina would have to stay aloft all night and land by daylight." The book has a long account of the attack on QL-A, quoting Birchall, Catlin and Phillips, the radio operator. None mention ferry tanks being fitted but perhaps they weren't hit, or had already been emptied and therefore did not burst into flames when hit.

    It's not in Wings of the Dawning, but in an account recorded elsewhere I think Birchall commented that when QL-A sank the crew in the water was worried that its depth charges might go off, indicating they had not been ditched. I've always wondered why they were not ditched as soon as the Zeros approached, but maybe it was not so easy. Am I right to suppose that they could only be ditched using the controls at the bomb aimer's position? If so, was it possible for someone to reach these controls if the front guns were manned and in use? Sgt Henzell, the front gunner, was badly wounded, early in the engagement I think.

    Cheers,

    Rob
    Last edited by Rob Stuart; 19th November 2010 at 14:03.

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    Default Catalina I performance

    Hi again Rob,
    And thanks for continuing to unfold the possibilities ref this particular mission.

    Yes, I'd read this account of "Depth Charges going off" as well. However, just because they didn't go off (by all accounts?) does not mean they were not there. It may be that the safety wires / pins stayed jammed in the fusing mechanism after everything came to a halt, rendering the hydrostatic pistols inoperative even while sinking. This could be true even if the ordnance stayed attached to the wing, or came off (with bomb carriers either attached or dislodged) and entered the water independently. It needs more study of course, but this would likely be true for either the Mk.VII D/C, 250lb A/S bomb, or 500lb A/S bomb.

    As far as endurance goes, I'll send you some related material from the Catalina I/IB/II/IV Air Publication and will eagerly await any resulting impact this might have on your interpretation.
    I'd post the scans here but am not sure how to do so.
    Cheers,
    Terry

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    Rob and Terry:
    You may have missed this as it squeaked in under one of Rob's postings, sent a few seconds after mine...
    According to Royal Air Force, Volume 2 (Richards and Saunders), the endurance of a Catalina I flown at economical cruising speed to 'tanks dry' with 2,000b of depth charges was 17.6 hours or 25 hours with no weapon load. Operational planning was based on 25% less. I would assume a cruising altitude of around 2,000 feet as most Coastal ops were flown at no more than 3,000 feet.
    Regards:
    Robert

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    Hi Robert,

    No, I didn't miss your posting. In fact, I quoted from it in my last one, albeit I kind of buried it, when I said "as Robert points out the endurance of a Catalina I was less than 18 hours on such a mission when so armed. (Thanks Robert!)" Your posting provided important support for my theory that QL-A pretty much had to be carrying auxiliary tanks.

    Thanks,

    Rob

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    Hi Rob:
    Oops - that will teach me not to scan long posts when I'm in a hurry. Glad the data was useful.
    Regards:
    Robert

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    In the last para of my posting at 08:58 on 19 November, I alluded to the depth charges on Birchall's plane apparently not being ditched when the Zeros approached and I speculated that perhaps they could not have been easily released from the cockpit. Well, I now have a copy of the January 1945 edition of the US Navy "Pilot's Handbook of Flight Operating Instructions" for the PBY-5A. It notes that "The emergency salvo release controls are installed both in the bomber's and in the pilot's compartments." and that "The emergency salvo release will release bombs either armed or safe." The description of the pilot's release controls reads as follows:

    "b. The pilot's emergency release controls have two handles, mounted just below the pilot's instrument panel, one left-hand and one right-hand of the center line. The left-hand handle controls bombs or torpedo on left side of airplane and the right-hand handle controls bombs or torpedo on right side of airplane. The handle is connected by flexible cable and a cable splice plate to the bomber's emergency release cable. A pull on the pilot's emergency handle will operate the emergency release system.

    "c. A two inch pull on the cable is required to release the bombs. In adjusting the cables, turn the turnbuckles just enough to remove the slack in the cables and no more. Check to see that the emergency release handle is in the closed position after the cables have been adjusted. Too great a tension on the cables may result in dropping bombs inadvertently."

    I presume that in this particular there was no difference between the PBY-5A and the PBY-5, AJ155 being a PBY-5.

    It would appear that it was very easy to ditch the bombload from the cockpit. However, the fact that the one handle released the weapons slung under the port wing and the other those slung under the starboard suggests that the normal drill would be to have the pilot pull the port handle and the co-pilot the starboard at the same time, so that there would be no loss of balance by having, for example, 2000 pounds under one wing and nothing under the other. There is a photo showing the two handles. The one for the port wing bomb rack is just to the right of the pilot's right knee. I'm not sure if the co-pilot could easily reach over and pull it with his left hand while pulling the other handle, just to the left of his left knee, with his right hand. If not, then the two pilots would have to coordinate their operation of the handles and it may have gotten too hot too fast for Birchall and Kenny to do that once the Zeros were seen.

    Any thoughts?


    Rob

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    Default Catalina Mk.I and PBY-5 / 5A differences

    Hi Gents:
    Rob, I have a copy of this document also (I believe I sent you a time / endurance chart scan?). As well, I have the something similar for the Catalina Mk.I (did I send scan?). The last time we coresponded, I had wanted to find this, and did as I recall, but misplaced it again and have since moved on to other things. Oops! I'll try to locate and pass along the details later.
    The reason why I caution here is because, although they may be outwardly similar, one major difference, besides the fuel system, between the early RAF-destined Catalinas (Mk.I) and the PBY-5/5A/Canso was the wing centre section. In fact it was so different that they were not interchangeable. And as luck should have it differences were primarily in the parts of the wing associated with the ordnance-toting hardware and electrical hardware. I mention this because it seems likely that it may have affected the engineering of the jettison gear as well.

    From the Mk.II onwards (I've not yet finished investigating the Mk.IB configuration so the jury's still out), the Catalina featured the standard-production PBY/Canso wings so your findings would be absolutely correct there.
    Once I find the Catalina Mk.I doc, I'll pipe back in.
    If there's anybody out there who can share any knowledge or documentation on this point, I'd love to hear from them.
    Cheers
    Terry

    PS: There is an account of a 413 pilot (in Arthur Banks' book IIRC) jettisoning a load before returning to base and the flight time was way up there: something like 24 hrs. Don't remember the exact details but I believe he was in a Catalina Mk.I. Might be worth chasing down the details?

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