Catalinas of Rio

Drink in this great original Kodachrome of U.S. Navy and Brazilian Air Force (Força Aerea Brasileira – FAB) officers inspect a flight line of depth-charge equipped Brazilian Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boats during graduation exercises of a Brazilian Air Force patrol squadron trained by the U.S. Navy, circa early 1945.

National Archives and Records Administration, 80-G-K-5258

Note Brazilian markings on the plane, whose wing shows signs of a party painted-out U.S. markings and that the Catalina closest to the camera still carries the name “Bettye Jayne” above its Brazilian star roundel.

From June 1942 onward, the U.S. Navy was busy running anti-submarine sweeps off the South Atlantic from Brazil during the war. Catalinas and later PB2Y Coronados of VP-74 flew from the Naval Air Station at Natal, Brazil while VPB-145 and VP-94 had PBY5A dets from both Belem and Wideawake Field on Ascension Island until discontinued in April 1945, losing one plane and crew in an accident.

PBYs in flight over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 80-G-59581

During this period, the Navy turned Catalinas to the Brazilians, who trained alongside the American naval aviators and ground crew.

A Brazilian Air Force PBY Squadron’s officers sit on the wing of one of the IR PBY CATALINA Aircraft, circa 1945. They are being trained by U. S. Navy pilots. (National Archives)

One, Arará, was credited with sinking a German Type IXD2 U-Boat, U-199.

U-199 under attack by Brazilian Air Force PBY Catalina, notice the “short” conning tower of an early type IX D2. Brazillian Air Force – Diretoria do Patrimônio Histórico e Documentação da Marinha (DPHDM) and Instituto Histórico-Cultural da Aeronáutica (INCAER)

Brazilian Catalina PBY-5 Arará attacking the U-199 off Rio de Janeiro Reproduction painting by Álvaro Martins.

Post-war, the Brazilians would keep some, flying them in the Amazon basin, and sell others to domestic airlines Panair do Brasil and Cruzeiro for use as sea-air taxis.

Augmented by retired Canadian models, Brazil was the last country to keep the type operational, with the FAB only retiring the Catalina in 1982– more than 25 years after the USN moved on. Today, two (ex-USN BuNo 46643 and ex RCAF Canadian Canso A 9752) are preserved in Brazilian museums.

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