Captain Zaharie Shah, Pilot-in-Command of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, was a flying enthusiast. In his spare time he flew radio-controlled model aircraft including a PBY Catalina.
To help readers appreciate the significance of this aircraft, this article provides a brief overview of the Catalina, and links for further reading.
The Consolidated (Model 28) PBY Catalina was one of the most widely used seaplanes used in the USA and air forces from around the world. It had an extremely long range and was used for reconnaissance, submarine patrol and air sea rescue. There were many notable missions and engagements of the PBY; One PBY searched and found the Japanese fleet of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, setting the stage for the Battle of Midway. Flying for the RAF, a Catalina I spotted the Bismark which lead to its being sunk by the Royal Navy. Another PBY rescued 56 sailors in high seas from the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis after it was sunk during World War II. When there was no more room inside the aircraft, the crew tied sailors to the wings.
The most distinguishing features of the PBY were the high parasol wing, the fuselage observation blisters and the wingtip stabilizing floats that would retract to form streamline wingtips. It made its inaugural flight on March 28, 1935 and approximately 4,000 aircraft were built.
Source: The Aviation History Online Museum http://aviation-history.com/consolidated/pby.html
A USAAF Consolidated OA-10A Catalina (USAAF designation of the PBY) landing off Keesler Field , Mississippi (today Keesler Air Force Base), during a training exercise with U.S. Marine Corps rescue boat crews in 1944.
Source: USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]]
Captain Zaharie Shah's radio-controlled model PBY Catalina
Source: Zaharie Shah Facebook album Catalina pby at
Three Consolidated PBY-5A Catalinas of patrol squadron VP-52 in the south-west Pacific in December 1943. VP-52 was based at Port Moresby, New Guinea at that time and was engaged in so-called "Black Cat" (nighttime) operations.
Source: U.S. Navy Naval History Center website; via Wikimedia Commons
- The Catalina Preservation Society https://pbycatalina.com/
- The Aviation History Online Museum http://aviation-history.com/consolidated/pby.html
- And for those who try to link Captain Shah with Diego Garcia, his interest in the PBY Catalina may be relevant as this article shows: “Katie” the PBY Catalina of Diego Garcia! https://www.squadronposters.com/71670-2/