PBY-5A Catalina

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The PBY-5A Catalina is a well-known piece of US Naval aviation. The modeler has Catalina options in 1/48th, 1/72nd, and 1/144th. For the 1/144th modelers out there or those that do not have the shelf space for the 48th Monogram kit, the Minicraft kit will fit the bill nicely. This is Minicraft’s third boxing of the PBY-5. The box contains the same plastic but contains two decal options.

Upon opening the box, two light gray sprues, one clear sprue, decal sheet printed by Cartograf of Italy, and instructions greet the modeler. There is some flash on some of the parts but nothing too bad. The engraving on the parts is nicely done with the exception of the main wing. The engraving of the main wing is a little soft, especially compared to the rest of the kit. However, after painting, it does not look bad at all. The clear parts look well molded and clear.

Before the modeler begins the kit, it would be beneficial to do a little research. Step one of the instructions poses the first of a couple minor issues. It shows you three different nose turrets but does not mention which one is for which of the two markings. Step 3 shows the construction of the MAD boom. This is only applicable to the VP-63 markings. The MAD boom instructions are drawn to scale but the instructions do not indicate the diameter of the MAD boom. As such, the modeler needs to research or estimate the diameter. The instructions also do not indicate for which version the extended exhausts are. The instructions also have you put the exhaust (A35 and A36) on backwards. Fortunately, a little research indicates that the VP-63 aircraft had the extended exhausts and the VP-83 did not.

Instruction ambiguities aside, the build went fairly well with only a couple hiccups. The clear parts looked nicely molded, but the main canopy and the blister canopies required a little filler. I used a light amount of filler over the seams, but generally the kit did not require much filler. The main gear wells did not seem to fit that well, but worked out in the end. Don’t forget to throw as much nose weight as you can before you close up the fuselage. I also chose to add the nose turret after painting and assembly.

The main wing was built, painted, decaled, and added to the fuselage after all weathering was done. I did this because as it was much easier to paint everything. The wingtip pontoon struts are very fragile and finicky, but nothing a little patience doesn’t conquer. The struts that go from the fuselage the main wing seemed to be a little long. Therefore, test fit the struts before applying glue in case you need to make any modification. I added the wing to the fuselage and then built the landing gear. I think it would be easier to build the landing gear and attach it to the fuselage and then add the wing.

I chose to build my kit in the markings of VP-83, a PBY-5A based out of Brazil. Again, check your research, as the instructions do not correctly show the location of the de-icing boots. Minicraft has issued de-icing boot decals in other kits (like their DC-4), and de-icing boot decals in the PBY-5 kit would have been a nice touch. I wasn’t happy with Minicraft’s depiction of the exhaust so I scratch built some out of styrene rod. The decals went on great with no issues. Weathering was done with chalk pastels.

I spent about 12 hours on this kit. It’s a great addition to any 1/144th modelers or those that want a more shelf friendly Catalina. If you do your research and test fit the parts this should not be an overly difficult build. A huge thank you goes out to Minicraft Models and IPMS for allowing me the opportunity to review and add a 1/144th PBY-5A Catalina to my display case.


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