Beaching the Cats

Advocates of landplanes for future transoceanic operation often point to the complexity of beaching operations as an argument against large flying boats. These problems are numerous, because the large seaplane, lying on surface, is affected by both aerodynamic and hydrodynamic forces. However, skilled and careful beach crews can take the boat out of the water with little trouble and a minimum of time and equipment.

The Navy, through years of practice with water-based equipment, has evolved a procedure which demands the utmost in cooperation between plane and ground crew, rapidly accomplishes the beaching operation with a minimum risk to equipment. The accompanying series of pictures illustrates the general procedure used at most Naval stations. For instance, a PBY patrol boat comes back after completing its mission. The pilot lands the ship and taxis upwind at right angles to the ramp, going a little distance beyond it. Arriving at the key point, a member of the flight crew throws out a sea anchor, a canvas bag which acts both as a drag and as a pivot.

The ground crew, dressed in swimming shorts when the weather permits, or in all-over rubber suits and waders, when the climate is frigid, wade out, and bring the crew in pick-a-back. Then using the sea anchor as a pivot, the ship is turned, tail toward the sloping seaplane ramp.

In the meantime, a three-section wheeled beaching gear is wheeled out. Consisting of two twin-wheeled units, fitted to a regular Aerol strut, like those used in regular landing gear units, these wheels are equipped with fittings which couple with those on the boat. The tail wheel consists of a Vee-shaped bracket, with a third prong used for steering the entire unit.

Once the gear is attached, the boat is hand-hauled to the edge of the ramp by means of a rope attached to the tail bracket. Once the boat makes contact with the ramp and is properly lined up. the tow rope is hitched to a tractor, which pulls the PBY out of the water, onto the washing line, where every trace of salt water is washed away. Only then is it ready for servicing, further flight.

This pictorial article was originally published in the September, 1943, issue of Air News magazine, vol 5, no 3, p 42.
The original article includes 6 captioned photos.

Photo captions:

  1. In beaching a large flying boat, the first step is to get it properly lined up at right angles to the end of the ramp. A sea anchor, dropped over-side from amidships, acts as pivot in tailing the ship in for beaching.
  2. in large flying boats, another sea anchor is attached by the ground crew to aid in making this 90° turn. They also bring the pilots and aircrew members ashore from the Catalina pick-a-back to keep them dry.
  3. By means of a rope attached to the tail, the boat is turned tail inward toward the ramp. Then ground crew members, clad in shorts, attach the tail wheel unit, which acts as steering device when the boat's ashore.
  4. Next, the wheel units. consisting of two standard wheels and a regular Aerol strut are clamped into place on fittings provided for this purpose on the hull. These inspired the current amphibian version Consolidated Catalina.
  5. Getting the big boat the next few feet is a delicate hand operation. Wind and tide can make it complicated, and rough handling can damage the flying boat's valuable hull. For this reason, contact is hand work.
  6. Once the boat is actually on the ramp, a tractor picks up the rope, and the boat is towed to the washing and service line. All flying boats operating in deep water are washed on beaching to prevent salt water corrosion.