Revell 1/48 PBY-5A Catalina

By Dave Manter


In World War II the U.S. Navy used long-range flying boats to patrol the vast expanses of ocean and look for the enemy. No other flying boat was produced in greater numbers or for as long as time as the Consolidated PBY. In production continuously for more than 10 years, the PBY was named “Catalina” by the British in November 1940 shortly after the first were delivered to the RAF. Used not only for search but also for rescue, the PBY was a welcome sight for numerous downed airmen and sailors from ships that had been sunk. The high regard in which the PBY was held is reflected by the remark attributed to an Army pilot, “When I see a PBY, I always stand up and salute it!” Another use of the PBY was in the bomber and torpedo bomber rolls. The most famous of these were the Black Cat night search and attack operations conducted in the South Pacific by VP-12. VP-12 arrived on Guadalcanal with black painted PBY-5As in December of 1942 and continued operations until March 1943. Other Black Cat operations continued until the end of the war. With more than 3,300 Catalina boats and amphibians produced, nearly 100 are still flying today. The PBY continues to live up to her reputation as a go anywhere, do anything workhorse.

The Kit

The Revell Monogram kit has been issued before, once as a straight PBY-5 and also as a PBY-5A in their Pro Modeler line. This time the kit has been released in the regular line as the PBY-5A. The kit contains 160 parts molded in a light gray and clear plastic. Detail is superb. The rivet detail on the wings and fuselage is outstanding. The first thing that you will notice is that this is a LARGE aircraft! The wingspan is more than 26 inches! The kit can be built with the landing gear in the up or down positions. The kit comes with a beautiful decal sheet with markings for 2 aircraft. The first is an intermediate blue over gray scheme from the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron 1945. The second is a blue gray, red and yellow scheme from the 4th Rescue Squadron, Hamilton AFB, 1950. The decals are printed in perfect registration and feature very vivid colors. The instruction book is well laid out and features 6 main assembly steps broken down into several sub assembly steps. Painting is called out during assembly. The kit also features 4 crew figures and they are some of the nicest 1/48th scale figures that I have seen.


Step one begins with the cockpit and it is pretty straightforward. You also need to decide whether you are going to use the very nice figures or not and if you will build the plane with retracted gear or not. After a little clean up all of the parts fit well. I built the entire forward cockpit before I painted. After the parts were dry I mixed up a 50/50 mix of flat green and flat yellow and sprayed all of the interior parts, including the inside of the fuselage halves. After this was done I applied a thin wash of Van Dyke Brown and did all of the detail painting. The last step was to use a silver artist pencil to add some paint chips.

Step two begins with the installation of the fuselage windows and there are 7 of these. As I had already sprayed the inside of the fuselage I put the windows in with Microscale Kristal Klear. This white glue dries totally clear and also fills in any small gaps that might be present. The main landing gear was next and again after a little clean up all of the parts fit well. It will definitely be easier to paint the gear bays before you install them into the fuselage. I choose to paint these black as most of my reference material showed them this way, but they could also be painted the underside color as well. The last thing to do was the rear gunner’s compartment and it was built and painted the same way as the main cockpit. Keep in mind that if you install the gun blisters in the open position, virtually all of this area will be visible so a little extra time fitting the parts will be worthwhile.

Step three is the installation of the cockpit and rear gunner’s compartment and the gluing up of the fuselage halves. Two important points here; the area behind the main cockpit will be visible through the canopy and if you are building the aircraft with the gear down, you must add a lot of weight to the forward section to keep it from sitting on its tail. The instructions do mention that you need to add weight. I added almost 6 oz. of lead weights right behind the cockpit. After I added this, I painted this whole area flat black because it can be seen on the finished model. Because of the length of the fuselage I used liquid cement to put the two halves together. I used tape to hold the two pieces together as I made my way around the fuselage. The fit here was nice and just a small amount of filler was needed. The nose gear and main landing wheels are added last in this step.

Step four is the installation of the rear machine guns and all of the canopies. Before I installed the clear canopies, I dipped each of them in Future to give them more of a shine and also to help with the masking. After letting the Future dry overnight, I masked all of the canopies with Bare Metal Foil. I normally use Tamiya masking tape for this but the compound curves on the gunner’s blisters made this difficult. The panels were cut out with a fresh scalpel blade and no problems were encountered. I left the machine guns out and then installed the canopy and the gun blisters with Kristal Klear.

Step five is the assembly of the main wing, engine nacelles and stabilizers. Man, is this wing big! I found out how much clutter had accumulated on my workbench! I kept banging into paint bottles and such as I maneuvered this wing around! After assembling the main wing I moved on to the wing tip floats and the stabilizers. All parts again fit well. I did use a fair amount of filler along the leading edge due to the large attachment points on the parts trees. As these were drying I painted the engines black and dry brushed the cylinder heads with silver. The crankcases were done in dark gray. After the wing and the other parts dried overnight, I installed the wingtip floats in the up position, but here again you can install them in the up or down position. I installed the stabilizers but left the main wing off to make the painting easier.

Step six is installation of all of the small parts such as the radars, antennas and props. I left all of these off till after the base painting was done.


I began painting by preshading the bottom of the fuselage and the bottom of the main wing with a dark gray. I spayed all of the panel lines on the underside with this color. I then mixed up Tamiya Neutral Gray thinned about 70% with thinner and filled in each panel one at a time. This sounds very time consuming but it really goes fast. With the Tamiya paint thinned this much you really have to lay it on quite heavy before it will cover the darker color. After each panel was painted I pulled the airbrush back to about 8” and lightly misted this mix over the entire bottom of the aircraft. This evens out the gray color. With the bottom now done, I mask out all of the small windows and painted the rear blisters and the front turret with the yellow/green mix and did the main canopy with flat black. These colors will show on the inside of the clear sections. After this was done, I preshaded the upper surfaces with a dark blue color. I applied this heavier around the engines.

The next step and most time consuming was the application of the intermediate blue color. It was very time consuming due to the amount of area that needed to be covered! This is a big aircraft! Once this was on (and it took me 4 painting sessions over 2 days!) and dry I removed the canopies and touched up the fuselage areas just inside if them. I also painted the forward cockpit section with black. I removed all of the Bare Metal Foil masking and reattached the clear parts. The next step in painting was to do all of the little parts and the props. The next step was to apply Future as a gloss coat where the decals were to be placed. After this had set overnight I applied the kit decals and found them to be very, very nice. They reacted well with Micro Sol setting solution.

The next day the decals had settled into all of the panel lines and even down into the rivet detail. I then sprayed a flat coat over them to seal them in and to protect them from the weathering process. As the preshading had the effect of “popping” out the panel lines, the weathering process was most of the way done. I applied a very thin wash of Lamp Black oil paint over the entire airframe, streaking it in the direction of the airflow. The last step was to spray a lightened blue immediately behind the engines for a faded look. This mix was used in several areas on the main wing to add to that faded and weathered look and also to tone down the decals. The last step was to add faint black streaks behind the exhaust stacks. With the painting done all of the small parts were added and the model was completed.


With the Catalina PBY being one of my favorite aircraft, this kit was a real joy for me. It was also the largest aircraft that I have done in a long time. The kit fits together well and the detail is as nice as any other kit on the market. With all of the high dollar kits and all of the aftermarket stuff on the market, it is nice to know that a kit with this kind of detail can be built right out of the box, and for a reasonable price. If you like big kits that build quick, then this is definitely one for you to add to your collection. Highly recommended! My thanks to Revell-Monogram for this review sample!


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