RCU Review: Great Planes Electrifly PBY Catalina ARF

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    Contributed by: Jason Buzzeo | Published: January 2008 | Views: 124241 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com Review of Great Planes EP PBY Catalina Seaplane ARF

    Review by: Jason Buzzeo (Buzz390916) Email Me

    Great Planes
    Model Manufacturing Company

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021

    Great Planes
    EP Catalina PBY
    Window Media Player

    • Fast, Easy Assembly
    • Clearly Written Manual
    • Fiberglass Fuselage
    • Pre-installed Motor and ESC Extensions
    • Pre-installed Aileron Extensions
    • Excellent Materials And Construction

    • None

    In World War II, PBYs were used as anti-submarine warfare aircraft, patrol bombers, convoy escorts, search and rescue aircraft, and transports. The Catalina can be considered the most successful aircraft of its kind, as no other flying boat was produced in greater numbers.

    The Catalina was originally designed to be a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to compromise enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the US Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways to take off and land, in effect having the entire ocean available as its runway.

    Although slow and ungainly, Catalinas distinguished themselves in World War II as exceptionally reliable aircraft. Allied armed forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered by many veterans of the war for their role as rescuing aircraft, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew shot down over the Pacific Ocean.

    Now Great Planes honors this veteran with an EP ARF version. If it flies as good as it looks, this is going to be one nice seaplane!

    Name: Great Planes EP Catalina PBY

    Price: $139.99

    Wingspan: 53.5" (1360mm)

    Wing Area: 395 sq in (25.5 sq dm)

    Length: 34.25" (870mm)

    Flying Weight (advertised): 3 - 3.25 lb (1360 - 1470g)

    Flying Weight: (actual) 3.2 lb

    Radio Used:Futaba 6EX - (2) S3114 Mini Servos (Elev, Rud) and (2) S3107 Micro Servos (Ail).

    Motor: (2)Electrifly Rimfire28-30-950 Brushless Out-runner

    ESC: (2) SS-25 for Brushless motors

    Battery: (2) ElectriFly LiPo 11.1V 3200mAh 20C

    Channels Used: 4 total - Elevator, Aileron, Rudder, Throttle

    Items Needed To Complete

    • 4 Channel Radio (Minimum) w/ 2 Micro and 2 Mini Servos
    • Two 6" Servo Extensions
    • Two Servo "Y" Harnesses
    • Two RimFire Brushless 28-30-950 Motors
    • Two ElectriFly SS-25 Speed Controls
    • One Deans U Parallel ESC adapter
    • Battery: 11.1V 2100mAh LiPo
    • Battery Charger: LiPo compatible
    • Thin and Medium CA
    • 30-min Epoxy
    • Canopy Glue
    • Various Standard Shop Tools

    The packaging was great. All parts were individually wrapped and the box was nicely compartmentalized to protect all of the major components. A thorough inventory showed no signs of damage anywhere.

    One of the little extras that Great Planes gives you is a foam and PVC cradle, which proved invaluable while building!

    I was also impressed with the under-cambered wing. This is something that I feel many manufacturers wouldn't have bothered with.


    The manual is right up there with the usual quality expected from Great Planes. Good pictures, good instructions and well written.


    The wing is shipped with the ailerons hinged and taped in place, but not glued. So after removing them and putting a pin through each hinge to center them, I replaced the ailerons and applied thin CA to each hinge.

    Once the ailerons were in place, it was time to mount the aileron servos. The pre-installed extensions were a really nice touch! All that was needed was to plug the servos in and screw them down. Next the control horns were screwed in place and the pushrods were attached.


    The nacelles were quite impressive. Made from laser-cut plywood, they were very well constructed and engineered. The Rimfire motor bolted right in and they were ready to go.

    I used 30-Minute epoxy to secure the nacelles to the wing. Once it had cured, the motor just plugs into the pre-installed extension wires. And I have to say that all of these pre-installed wires is a huge time saver!

    Now the nacelle covers slide into place. It was a tight fit, but they went on ok. Once they were in place, I secured them with clear tape.

    With the nacelle covers on, the cowl fits snuggly in place - no glue necessary. The prop is actually fitted later, but this seemed like the best place for the picture.

    Now the tip floats get epoxied on. Once again, I used 30-minute epoxy, and with that, the wings are finished.


    The wing halves slide onto the aluminum wing tube, and a pin near the TE aligns them. Now they can be bolted to the fuse.

    NOTE: Due to the Catalina design, the props will spray water directly at the seam where the wing and fuselage meet. Need I remind you that water and electricity don't mix? Waterproofing this area is imperative! I used clear silicon sealant on the fuselage's saddle and smeared a thin film of Vaseline on the wing to keep it from sticking, then joined the two pieces and let the silicon cure overnight.


    The elevator halves are per-notched and drilled to accept the joiner wire, so after a test fit, the wire was epoxied in place.

    Once cured, the elevator and rudder are installed with CA hinges. The water rudder is also installed now.

    The elevator and rudder servos screw into their mounts in the rear of the fuse, and the pushrods are attached to the tail. Afterward, the two rear bubble windows are secured with canopy glue.


    Time to mount the receiver and ESCs. Easier said than done! Due to the nature of the Catalina's design, there isn't a whole lot of room to position things, so if you know someone with skinny fingers, this would be a good time to invite them over!

    Mounts are built into the fuse for the Rx, battery and ESCs and Velcro is provided for mounting. With the exception of the cramped quarters, this went relatively easily.


    All that's left to do is to mount the struts, water rudder and bailing plug. Again, no problems here, everything fit very well. The only thing I wanted to point out is that I loaded the plug up with Vaseline before installing it to help keep the water out.

    Time to charge up the battery and christen this baby!

    The first day out the lake was pretty choppy, but the Catalina still managed to get off the water with relative ease. Once airborne, I was immediately impressed. Only minor trim adjustment was needed, and once trimmed it was just plain sweet. The high, under-cambered wing provides plenty of lift and stability. If the full-scale PBY flew this good I can understand why it was so popular among its pilots.

    Unfortunately I blew the landing. It was more the fault of the choppy water than dumb thumbs (it was really not the best water conditions for a maiden flight). But no damage was done, and with the maiden flight out of the way, I could wait for a calmer day for some more tests.

    When a calmer day arrived, I once again set the Catalina in the water and taxied out. THIS day was perfect! The water was almost glass - just a series of tiny ripples floating across it. When I powered up, I was very pleased with how quickly it got on step, but I was really blown away with how nicely it moved once it was there. When this plane is on step it is absolute poetry in motion. It literally just glides along the top of the water as if it was made to be there - which, now that I think of it, it was!

    Transition from lake to sky was as smooth as you could ask for, and once airborne I really could appreciate the great flight characteristics now that it was a calm day! And even though it was never designed for aerobatics, it easily handled a few loops and rolls.

    Landing was every bit as sweet as the takeoff. This thing is really amazing on the water. I did three more takeoffs and landings before the motors started indicating that the power was starting to die down. And although the flight times were more than adequate, I was only disappointed because I wanted to keep doing them!

    Fortunately I had a nice calm evening to shoot the video. See for yourself how sweet this thing is!

    Check out the video to see her in action!

    Great Planes EP
    Catalina PBY ARF
    Video (6.8meg)


    Great Planes EP
    Catalina PBY ARF
    Deluxe Video (14meg)

    Whether you're a veteran of water flying, or getting your feet wet for the first time, the Great Planes EP PBY Catalina is a terrific airplane. It handles easily both in the air and on the water. I can't emphasize enough how important waterproofing is with an electric, so be sure to do a good job of it. That aside, this is a good looking, good flying, easy to build seaplane that you can have loads of fun with - I know I have!

    Great Planes
    Model Manufacturing Company

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.greatplanes.com

    Distributed by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021; Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.electrifly.com

    Futaba Corporation of America
    Distributed by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021; Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.futaba-rc.com

    Comments on RCU Review: Great Planes Electrifly PBY Catalina ARF

    Posted by: vuclrider on 01/06/2008
    Great looking plane! How do you keep the motors cool and are the aileron servos suceptable to water damage?
    Posted by: davej78 on 01/07/2008
    If it wont fly any slower than that or turn without bank and yank its a big miss in my opinion
    Posted by: bz1mcr on 01/07/2008
    It is too big and too heavy. I would like to see one 36-42" span and around 1/3 the weight.
    Posted by: TOM HOPE on 01/08/2008

    Posted by: TOM HOPE on 01/08/2008
    Posted by: profgigawatt on 01/16/2008

    Posted by: profgigawatt on 01/16/2008
    I have 35 30 950's & 3s4300 lipo. in my PBY, a little heavy motor/battery. Flies a little fast but well. Take off and land on grass and mix the R/A.
    Posted by: Mr67Stang on 01/26/2008
    .10-.15 Nitro and this would be a nice plane! Tom Hope and I should start a conversion build...
    Posted by: joebahl on 02/01/2008
    I have this airplane, flies good with suggested motor and battery...it's not a combat plane.
    Posted by: zaskarkid on 02/19/2008
    what's the minimum distance for water take-offs? Will it take off in an olympic size swimming pool?
    Page: 1 2 >
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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