Tag Archives: flying boat

(Abbreviated) Warship Weds: Felixstowe edition

Sorry, am on the road in North Alabama at an industry event so we have a shorter than normal WW this week. Will return to full-sized installments next week when I have returned home to my “more defensible location.”

101 Years Ago Today: A British-designed American-built Felixstowe F5L flying boat underway to making spotting practice with battleships. The mightly new U.S. Navy dreadnoughts, USS Oklahoma (Battleship No. 37), and USS Florida (Battleship No. 30) are in the background. Photographed March 16, 1921.

U.S. Navy photograph, 80-HAN-53-16, now in the collections of the National Archives.

With an impressive 103-foot, 9.75-inch, wingspan (keep in mind a WWII PBY had a span of 104 feet, just a piddly 2.5-inches longer), the F5L was a huge albatross of a seaplane for its era. Capable of spanning over 800 miles on her pair of Liberty V12 engines, her four-man crew was both the eyes of the fleet and capable of dealing damage if needed, with the provision for bombs and two machine guns.

They would be used to help in the bombing and sinking of the captured German battleship SMS Ostfriesland.

From a design by John Cyril Porte, developed at the Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe (England), the F5L first flew in November 1918, just too late for the Great War. In all, just over 200 were built by Curtiss, Canadian Aeroplanes (later bought by the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1919) and by the U.S. Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) in Philadelphia. The F5L remained in service with the U.S. Navy until the late 1920s when they were replaced by the more advanced NAF PN series flying boats, although it survived with the Brazilain and Argentine Navies and as a mail carrier into the early days of WWII.

The hull of an F5L endures in the Smithsonian while the history of the USS Florida and Oklahoma, who outlived this species of lumbering flying boat in U.S. service, is much better known.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

Photo by SP4 Ingimar DeRidder, 69th Sig Bn, via U.S. Army CMH files.

Here we see USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVN-1), a 14,000-ton floating aircraft maintenance depot, anchored in Cam Ranh Bay, 12 November 66. Note at least three Army UH-1 Hueys on her deck. The Veteran WWII-era Curtiss-class seaplane tender, disarmed and manned by civilian mariners, was the closest thing the Army had to an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

The two Curtiss-class tenders, which include class leader USS Curtiss (AV-4) and her sistership USS Albemarle (AV-5) — the latter would become the above-shown Army flattop– were the first purpose-built seaplane tenders constructed for the Navy, with the previous vessels being repurposed minesweepers and destroyers. Ordered in 1938, they were laid down side-by-side at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, and were commissioned in November and December 1940.

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) (Foreground) and sistership USS CURTISS (AV-4), fitting out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. CURTISS departed Philadelphia on 2 January 1941 for shakedown, ALBEMARLE on 28 January. Both ships had been commissioned there in November/December 1940. USS TRIPPE (DD-403) and a sistership are at right; OLYMPIA (IX-40) is visible in the reserve basin at the top, along with an EAGLE boat. Note NEW JERSEY (BB-62) under construction in slipway at far left; two motor torpedo boats are visible just to the left of ALBEMARLE’s bow. NH 96539

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) passing south yard, Sun shipyard, Chester, PA., c 1941. NH 57783

The newly-commissioned USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) on her shakedown cruise, anchored at Havana Harbor, Cuba, on 22 February 1941, “dressed” for Washington’s birthday. Note Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes on the flight deck, aft. NH 96538

Some 527-feet long (keep in mind destroyers of the age were in the 300~ foot range), they had a very wide 69-foot beam and drew over three fathoms under their hull when fully loaded. Packed with four high-pressure boilers that pushed a pair of geared turbines, they could make a respectable 19.7 knots, which was faster than most auxiliaries of the era, and steam for 12,000 miles at 12 knots– enough to halfway around the globe. Equipped with CXAM-1 radars from the time they joined the fleet, at a time when many of the world’s best cruisers and battleships didn’t have such luxury gear, they were well-armed with four 5″/38 singles and an array of Bofors and Oerlikons.

One of Albemarle’s four 5″/38 DP mounts, note the 40mm Bofors tub in the distance. By the end of WWII, they would carry 20 40mm and 12 20mm guns for self-defense against enemy aircraft, more than most destroyers. Not bad for a “tender”

But of course, their main purpose was to support a couple squadrons of patrol bombers such as PBY Catalina or PBM Mariner flying boats, with a large seaplane deck over the stern and extensive maintenance shops in the superstructure forward.

A U.S. Navy Martin PBM-1 Mariner of Patrol Squadron 55 (VP-55) is hoisted on board the seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5), in 1941. Note the Neutrality Patrol paint scheme on the aircraft and the sailors manning the handling lines. U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum photo NNAM.1986.014.022

The third (and last) such U.S. Navy ship named Albemarle— after the sound in North Carolina, a traditional naming structure for seaplane tenders– she commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, CDR Henry Maston Mullinnix in command.

Graduating first in the USNA Class of 1916, Mullinnix was a destroyerman until he switched to Naval Aviation in the 1920s. Leaving Albemarle in early 1941 to be the skipper of Patrol Wing Seven, he would go on to command the carrier Saratoga in the Pacific before making RADM. He was killed aboard USS Liscombe Bay (CVE-56) as Task Force Commander off Makin Island on 24 November 1943 when the escort carrier was sent to the bottom by Japanese submarine I-175.

With the Americans and British becoming increasingly cooperative despite U.S. neutrality, Albemarle was dispatched soon after her shakedown to patrol Greenland and the western Atlantic, arriving 18 May 1941 with the PBYs of patrol squadron VP-52 at Argentia, Newfoundland. It should be noted that, just two days later, the Royal Navy was bird-dogging the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen across the North Atlantic. Soon, VP-71, VP-72, and VP-73 would join the tender.

Little Placentia Harbor, Argentia, Newfoundland. USS Albemarle (AV-5), with an AVD alongside, in the harbor, circa 1941. Note PBY Catalinas in the foreground. NARA 80-G-7448

Greenland Expedition by USS Albemarle (AV 5) May-September 1941. East Coast of Greenland with PBY Catalina making observations, May 25, 1941. The PBYs performed long reconnaissance missions to provide data for convoy protection. Caption: Greenland – A Mysterious Land of Mountain and Ice. Majestic fjords indent the coast serrated by rocky buttes some of which are precipitous cliffs attaining elevations of two to three thousand feet. 80-CF-73186-6 Box 126.

Her crew earned the American Defense Service Medal for the ship’s peacetime actions in the Atlantic, 23 Jun 41 – 22 Jul 41, 15 Aug 41 – 1 Nov 41.

She was one of the unsung Brotherhood of the F.B.I. “The Forgotten Bastards of Iceland,” and survived a strong (hurricane-force) storm there in January 1942.

WAR!

After a refit on the East Coast, she would spend most of the rest of 1942 and the first half of 1943 running around much warmer climes, delivering aeronautical material and men to naval air bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America, as well as in the northern South Atlantic.

OS2U Kingfishers aboard USS Albemarle AV-5, 14 May 1942

Her relatively fast speed enabled her to keep ahead of U-boats and she, ironically, would carry back captured German submariners from sunken boats– killed by patrol bombers– to POW camps in the U.S.

Crossing the Line Neptunus Rex Party onboard USS Albemarle (AV 5). September 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-22195, 80-G-221182, 80-G-22193

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic, with a PBY Catalina on her seaplane deck, 30 December 1943. 80-G-450247

Her role as a high-speed aviation transport continued with convoys to North Africa in 1943, delivering 29 dive bombers on one such trip.

U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic Ocean on 10 August 1944. She is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 5Ax. The photo was taken by a blimp of squadron ZP-11. 10 August 1944. Note her heavy armament for an aviation support ship. 80-G-244856

Same as above. Note the array of emergency brake-away rafts. She carried a 1,000+ man complement and often carried 200 or more transients. 80-G-453347

Post War Mushroom Collecting

In May 1945, just after VE-Day, she was detailed to begin carrying flying boat squadrons from the Atlantic Theatre to the U.S. for transfer to the Pacific Theatre, which was still active. Likewise, our broadly-traveled seaplane tender was planned to receive extra AAA mounts and gear in preparation for her own transfer Westward to take part in the final push to Tokyo. Her sistership, Curtiss, had a much more active war in the Pacific, being in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and going on to earn seven battlestars supporting island-hopping operations.

However, VJ-Day halted things and, when Albemarle finally arrived at Pearl Harbor in November 1945, it was to join the “Magic Carpet” fleet returning American veterans home from the Pacific. This would include carrying the entire 658th Tank Destroyer/Amphibian Tractor Battalion back from the Philippines, landing them at San Francisco on 13 January 1946.

She went on to support Operation Crossroads Atomic tests, moored in Kwajalein lagoon during the Able and Baker drops at Bikini Atoll, and otherwise taking part in staging for and follow up from those mushrooms from May to August.

After a brief East Coast stint, she was back in the Pacific with Joint Task Force Switchman, arriving at Eniwetok in March 1948 to serve as a floating lab ship for the triple nuclear tests during Operation Sandstone– “X-Ray” with an experimental 37 kt A-bomb made from a 2:1 mix of oralloy and plutonium. (15 April 1948), the 49 kt oralloy “Yoke” (1 May 1948) and 18 kt oralloy “Zebra” (15 May 1948) bombs.

Swapped back to the East Coast after the conclusion of the tests, she was attached to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, decommissioned on 14 August 1950 and berthed at Brooklyn where she rested for six years. Meanwhile, sistership Curtiss, who had operated helicopters in Korea, was decommissioned on 24 September 1957 and would only leave mothballs again in 1972 when she was scrapped.

Seamaster

Albemarle was recommissioned at Philadelphia on 21 October 1957 after a 20-month conversion to be able to operate the planned Martin P6M Seamaster jet-equipped flying boats. Intended to be a nuclear deterrent, the Seamaster program was one of the Navy’s top priorities.

Martin P6M Seamaster. Just 12 of these strategic bombers in the guise of high-speed mine-laying flying boats were made. They could carry a 70-kt B28 nuke to a combat radius of 700 miles.

However, as Seamaster never reached the fleet, Albemarle ended up spending the next three years quietly tending more traditional Martin P5M Marlin flying boats off and on while participating in operations with the Atlantic Fleet. As Seamaster was canceled– it turned out the Polaris FBM submarines were a better idea– she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 21 October 1960 before being laid up with the James River Fleet. Transferred to MARAD, Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1962 and likely would have been scrapped.

However, her special services were soon needed by someone else.

Vietnam War – Project Flat Top – USNS Corpus Christi Bay

On 7 August 1964, MARAD transferred ex-Albemarle back to the Navy and six months later she was transferred to the Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service (which became today’s MSC in 1970), entered on the NVR as USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1). She was sent to the Charleston Naval Shipyard for an $11 million conversion to become a maintenance depot at sea for Army helicopters in Vietnam.

The idea was that, instead of shipping damaged helicopters back to the U.S. for refit, Corpus Christi Bay could, with her 32 on-board repair and fabrication shops, blueprints for every model helicopter in service, and cargo of 20,000 spare parts, could rework them. Meanwhile, her sister Curtiss, which had been laid up since 1957 and had been stricken in 1963, was robbed of everything useful to keep Albemarle/Corpus Christi Bay in shape.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) In port, probably at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, South Carolina, in 1966. Photographed by Captain Vitaly V. Uzoff, U.S. Army. This ship was originally USS Albemarle (AV-5). Official U.S. Army Photograph, from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Military Sealift Command collection. Catalog #: NH 99782

Delivered for sea trials in December 1965, on 11 January 1966 she was placed into service.

Dubbed an Aircraft Repair Ship, Helicopter as part of “Project Flat-Top,” Corpus Christi Bay lost her seaplane ramp, had her superstructure reconstructed to include a 50×150 ft. landing pad to accommodate just about any of the Army’s choppers. Damaged helos could be dropped via sling loads from CH-47s or CH-5s or barged out to the ship and lifted aboard by a pair of 20-ton cranes. All her remaining WWII weapons were removed. She picked up extensive air conditioning, a cobbler shop, barbershop, modern dining facilities, a dental clinic and medical center staffed by Army flight surgeons, and other amenities that the Navy’s flying boat aviators of 1940 could have only dreamed of.

The MSTS crew would be just 130~ civilian mariners and 308 green-uniformed helicopter techs of the Army’s specially-formed 1st Transportation Corps Battalion (Seaborne), which she picked up at Corpus Christi, Texas on 22 January.

 

As a lesson learned from the sinking of the former Bogue-class escort carrier-turned transport USNS Card (T-AKV-40) in 1964 by Viet Cong sappers, the MSTS made assorted security changes to vessels operating for extended periods in Vietnamese ports. This included helmets and flak vests for topside personnel, sandbags around the bridge, grenade screens secured on portholes, extra medkits and firefighting equipment kept at the ready, bilge and ballast pumps warmed up, and towing wires ready for a tow without assist from the ship’s crew. In addition to this, her Army techs maintained an extensive small arms locker to include several machine guns to replace damaged ones on gunships.

She had two Hueys assigned to her full-time for liaison work, Flattop 086 (68-16086), and Flattop 045 (69-15045).

Corpus Christi Bay operated out of Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam as a Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility, or FAMF, arriving 2 April 1966, and would remain overseas until 19 December 1972, spending almost seven years overseas, rotating crews and Army maintainers out regularly.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay at dock during the Vietnam War era, TAMUCC collection

As a seaborne asset of the United States Army Material Command, she was designated a floating Helicopter Repair Depot. Ostensibly manned by civilian merchant mariners of the MSTS, she was still owned by the Navy but, for all intents and purposes, was an Army ship.

Army Veteran Peter Berlin remembers her fondly and in detail:

The Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility was designed for use in contingency operations, initially for backup direct support and general support and provided a limited depot capability for the repair of aircraft components. It was equipped to manufacture small machine parts and also to repair items requiring extensive test equipment operating in a sterile environment such as avionics, instruments, carburetors, fuel controls, and hydraulic pumps. The mobility offered by the ship also contributed to the effectiveness of aircraft support since it could move from one deep water port to another as the density of aircraft units shifted with changing tactical situations. The guys aboard this FAMF could fix anything..

Ultimately determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements”. Corpus Christi Bay was taken out of service in 1973 and berthed in ready reserve status at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Corpus Christi Bay served six tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam and earned four Meritorious Unit Commendations. Determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements,” she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 December 1974, just two weeks after she returned to Corpus Christi from overseas. On 17 July 1975, she was sold to Brownsville Steel and Salvage, Inc. for the princely sum of $387,777 and subsequently scrapped.

Epilogue

The Army is a good caretaker of the vessel’s relics, with a scale model, the ship’s bell, and other artifacts on honored display at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas, an important cradle of Army aviation maintenance. Former members of the ship’s crew meet at CCAD from time to time. 

The USS Albemarle bell, which stands at the entrance of the CCAD Headquarters along with other relics from her day as USNS Corpus Christi Bay.

The U.S. Army Transportation Museum this month unveiled a large scale model of Corpus Christi Bay, saluting her service.

A private Facebook group, the USNS Corpus Christi Bay Alliance, is out there for Vets to reconnect. 

Her Navy war history and logbooks are digitized in the National Archives while the Army has numerous films of her Vietnam “Project Flat-Top” days in the same repository. 

And, of course, you didn’t come all this way and not expect this:

Specs:

Jane’s 1946

Jane’s 1973

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75 years ago: You can run…

A Japanese Navy Kawanishi H8K2 “Emily” patrol seaplane, #801-77, flies close to the ocean while trying to escape from a PB4Y-1 Privateer patrol bomber (a U.S. Navy B-24 Liberator with only minor modifications), just East of the Ryukyu islands, (25 20’N, 130 30’E) on 31 October 1944.

The PB4Y these images were taken by, flown by LT. Herbert G. Box of VPB-117 (“The Blue Raiders”), shot this Emily down, recorded at 1345(I).

Equipped with the early AN/APQ-5 low-altitude radar bombing gear, the PB4Y-1 shown above could carry 10 .50 cal machine guns in four turrets and two waist positions as well as 1,200-pounds of bombs on up to 1,500-mile patrols.

A big help in the air war over the Pacific between the U.S. and Japanese flying boats was the armored and hydraulically-powered ERCO bow turret, with twin .50 cal machine guns and 800 rounds of tracer at the ready. It could rotate 90 degrees to either port or starboard.  

In the old adage of “he who lives by the sword,” Box’s aircraft, Sweating it Out (USAF B-24J-155-CO 44-40312, BuNo 38760), was less than two weeks later severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire from Muko-Jima Retto in the Bonin Islands, the site of a Japanese weather and radio station. The crippled PB4Y made it back to within 30 miles of its Tinian base before being forced to ditch. Upon hitting the ocean, the plane broke into three pieces and five enlisted aircrewmen were lost. Seven survivors, including an injured Box, were rescued the next morning.

Between its establishment on 1 February 1944 and its decommissioning on 4 November 1945, Patrol Bombing Squadron 117 flew an impressive 1,617 missions, averaging 11.4 hours each, primarily on 1,000-mile patrols in support of the U.S. Third Fleet.

Throughout the Blue Raider’s Pacific War, they tallied 210 Japanese ships of some 109,000 tons (24 during one three week period alone), made 300 attacks on Japanese installations, and were credited with 58 enemy aircraft shot down, earning a Presidental Unit Citation.

VPB-117s crews were so good at splashing Zekes, Emilys, Jakes, Vals, and Judys that they count the highest number of air-to-air victories among U.S. Navy patrol squadrons of all time and had an unprecedented five crews that chalked up five or more “kills,” an impressive number when you take into account that the whole fleet only had eight such crews. At least two individual PBY4Y-1 gunners earned the title of “ace” with five kills each: SFC Richard H. Thomas of VPB-117 and ARM2 Paul Ganshirt of VD-3.

In exchange, The Blue Raiders lost 17 of their own PB4Ys along with 72 officers and men.

Ghosts of Dolphins’ past

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jessica Wright.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jessica Wright.

Above is an EADS HC-144B Ocean Sentry at Corpus Christi, Texas on Feb. 20, 2019. The Sentry is the navalised maritime patrol version of the CN-235 cargo plane made for the U.S. Coast Guard. The model recently was shifted from CGATS Mobile to Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi’s newest addition and has a number of upgrades from the earlier A-series that will allow aircrews to gather and process surveillance information that can be transmitted to other platforms and units during flight.

If the livery looks different, it is one of two modified in 2016 to celebrate the 100th year of U.S. Coast Guard aviation. The throwback scheme was carried by the bakers dozen Douglas RD-4 Dolphin seaplanes the Coast Guard flew from 1934 to 1943, with a dark blue fuselage, yellow on top of the wings, red and white on the tail, and silver metallic on the belly, underneath the wings, and for the engine cowlings and a stripe on the tail.

The Dolphin, a modification of Douglas’s 1930s Sinbad “flying yacht,” gave yeoman service in the 1930s and 40s in search and rescue and both the Army and Navy picked up a few of their own. Several saw WWII service.

Right side view of U.S. Coast Guard Douglas RD-4 Dolphin on water, men are about to be transferred to onto the aircraft from a burning motorboat which is to the right of the aircraft. 1936. NASM-XRA-4038

Only 58 were made and there was a flying example still airworthy in the early 1990s.

The last known surviving example of the venerable amphibian is at the Naval Air & Space Museum in Pensacola.

Sock’s Clippers and their 24-hour run

This majestic beast is a Consolidated P2Y-1, coded “10-P-1” denoting it as the command plane of LCDR Knefler “Sock” McGinnis, of patrol squadron VP-10F, as it peaks over the Hawaiian coastline, en route to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, near the end of the nonstop formation flight from San Francisco, USA, 10-11 January 1934. But more on that later.

NH 81664

The U.S. Navy fell in love with seaplanes back in the days of Glenn Curtiss and, by the end of WWI, had numerous models in regular service around the country, chief among them being the Curtiss H.16 and Felixstowe F5L. By the 1920s, the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia was making what they termed the PN flying boat, variants of the F5L with a massive 72-foot wingspan and a pair of Cyclone 9-cylinder single-row radial engines.

In 1925, in a show of force of the Navy’s ability to respond quickly to attacks on far-flung Pacific bases at a time when Japan was starting to flex serious muscle, two PN-9’s tried to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu– 2,400 miles.

I mean that is a big distance. Especially just 20 years after the Wright brothers first flew.

To put it into perspective, it is only 1,000 miles by air from Berlin to Moscow and 1,100 from New York to Miami. Even going cross-country, from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles is 2,200. The 2,300 miles from Pearl Harbor to San Fransisco is serious.

The thing is, the trip didn’t work out that well and, though heroic, did not prove the point. One aircraft was forced to land 300 miles outside of San Francisco and had to be towed back while the second flew 1,341 miles and ran out of fuel and, after fashioning sails (not making this up) blew into the Hawaiian Islands nine days later on the incoming tide.

The crew of 4 rigged a sail of wing fabric and attempted to sail to Hawaii. They were found by the submarine R-4 when less than 20 miles from shore. Still, the 1,341 miles flown by the PN-9 was a new distance record for seaplanes.

80-G-465336: PN-9 flying boat flying off the coast of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, September 22, 1925

Then came civilian attempts.

The ill-fated Dole Air Race (aka the Dole Derby) from California to Hawaii in 1927, started off with 18 “civilian” crews trying for the prize and only two made it. The lucky ones that didn’t crack up near the California coast. The unlucky ones, including early aviatrix Mildred Doran, were never seen again.

The winner of the $25K Dole prize? Two Army Air Corps pilots (!) who made it to Wheeler Army Airfield on Oahu in 25 hours and 50 minutes in the “Bird of Paradise,” a converted Fokker C-2 tri-motor. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

A couple of years after the PN-9 debacle and while the Dole racers were risking their lives, Consolidated Aircraft built the huge Commodore, a flying boat designed for long-range clipper service for Pan Am and others. With a 100-foot wingspan, the aluminum-hulled parasol wing monoplane could carry as many as 32 passengers on short hops and half as many on 1,000-nm+ legs.

One thing led to another and by 1931, the Navy ordered 23 of the big Commodore variants of their own, powered by two Wright R-1820-E1 engines, dubbed P2Y-1’s. The first 10 of these boats, capable of carrying three machine guns for self-defense and up to 2,000-lbs of bombs, were delivered to Patrol Squadron 10, float (VP-10F) at Norfolk in 1933 and soon embarked on a series of epic long-distance flights.

P2Y flying boat pictured taking off from the water at Naval Air Station (NAS) Hampton Roads 9 September 1933, via the NNAM

The most important of these was when six Consolidated P2Y-1s set a record for flying in formation from San Francisco to Honolulu– in 24 hours and 35 minutes, erasing the sting of the PN-9 affair of the 1920s and the Army-flown tri-motor of the Dole race.

P2Y-1 flying boat assigned to VP-10F off the California 1930s note the admiral’s flag on the nose of the airplane

Newsreel footage of VP-10’s P2Y-1 boats attempting the SF to Pearl run in January 1934:

They made it without sails, as a unit, flying all night. In doing so, they established three world records. The flight bettered the best previous time for the crossing; exceeded the best distance of previous mass flights; and broke a nine-day-old world record for distance in a straight line for Class C seaplanes with a new mark of 2,399 miles (3,861 km).

VP-10 Non-Stop Formation Flight 10-11 January 1934. View taken of the squadron’s P2Y-1 (consolidated) patrol planes, over Diamond Head, near Honolulu, Hawaii, en route to Pearl Harbor. Courtesy of Mrs. Laurence van Fleet, 1974 Catalog #: NH 81663

After their flight, five of the six P2Y-1 aircraft of US Navy squadron VP-10F at Naval Air Station Ford Island, US Territory of Hawaii, Jan. 1934.

The 30 crew members of the assembled aircraft were celebrated on arrival.

LCDR Knefler “Sock” McGinnis, USN left, with members of his crews of patrol squadron VP-10 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 11 January 1934 after the Trans-Pacific flight from San Francisco, USA, in consolidated P2Y patrol planes, one of which (McGinnis’) is in the background coded “10-P-1”. Description: Courtesy of Mrs. Laurence van Fleet, 1974

The reign of the P2Y was to be short-lived, with the Hawaii record the highlight of their service. In 1935, the first Consolidated PBY Catalina flew and the next year set a distance record of 2,992 miles with ease.

In all, only about 75 P2Ys were built in all variants and were replaced by 1941 with the famous and imminently capable PBY-1 Catalina, which it inspired.

What a great picture! A P2Y right, of VP-7 with a PBY-1 left, of VP-11 flying over USS DALE (DD-353) of DESRON-20, during an exhibition for Movietone News off San Diego on 14 September 1936. Description: Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley Jr., Washington DC, 1969 Catalog #: NH 67305

USS Farragut (DD-348) staged for Movietone News, off San Diego, California, 14 Sept 1936. At left is a PBY-1 of Patrol Squadron Eleven-F (VP-11F). The other four are P2Ys of Patrol Squadron Seven-F (VP-7F)

USS Farragut (DD-348) staged for Movietone News, off San Diego, California, 14 Sept 1936. At left is a PBY-1 of Patrol Squadron Eleven-F (VP-11F). The other four are P2Ys of Patrol Squadron Seven-F (VP-7F)

The P2Y’s seaplane jaunt was commemorated in “Record-Breaking Flight, 1934” a 1999 oil painting by artist Morgan Ian Wilbur, which portrays the boats in all their full-color peacetime livery.

Sock’s 10-P-1 up front! The painting currently in the NHHC collection, Accession #: 99-155-C