summer productivity

It’s been a good season. I haven’t written much but I spent hours spec’ing dream projects, sometimes in excruciating details. Kind of like Phineas and Ferb, minus the actual construction. And without a platypus.

I’m funny like that.

– First, in July, I dusted off my old drawing folders and draw new blueprints for a house. My dream house. I scrapped it all and recreated a shiheyuan-style courtyard home that is really, really cool (honestly, it is). I finally resolved the roof problem, I couldn’t get one that worked before. Now I’m pretty much done, at last. (I started fiddling with this in 1998) In fact I plan to bring it to an actual architect to make real building plans one of these days, even if I haven’t quite decided where to build it yet. It’s a tie between the Big Sur area in California and the Akaroa region in New Zealand. Hehe.

– After the house, I looked up and saw the sky and remembered how much I loved planes so I drafted a plan to resurrect the Latécoère 300 seaplane for a world tour. Then as you remember I decided it was too far-fetched and just picked several options out of existing planes: the PBY and the Super King Air. The result is, I now have a complete itinerary to follow regardless of the model.
It breaks my heart to see so many of the surviving PBY in museums. These machines are made to fly, not sit in the dust waiting for the end to come. Anyway.

– Finally, branching from my Laté 300 delusion, I get a realistic (though unlikely) plan for some PBY restorations that would go beyond mere conservation.

I have to explain.

I started my Laté 300 idea from the fact that a Dornier 24 is still flying around nowadays, however, I overlooked the fact that this is in big part due to the plane actually surviving enough time to be restored, and… there are no surviving Laté 300 anywhere. Yes, you can call Captain Obvious now. However, the important detail about this Do24 is that it was restored with turboprops. That meant it was possible to fit modern engines in an old airframe.

So I dug around the internet and found out about a fantastic conversion by Dr Forrest Bird: the “Bird Innovator”. It’s a PBY Catalina converted to quad-engine, with two smaller engines supporting the main powerplants. More importantly, the engineer’s post was moved to allow for single-pilot operation.

PBY "Bird Innovator", © Andy Martin
© Andy Martin


So I wonder: Would it be possible to take off from there and convert a Cat to turboprop. Kind of a “Innovator Special”, if you will. 2x PT6A-67A for the main powerplants, and 2x PT6A-6 for the secondary ones. Combined with a modernized cockpit, possibly glass. A clipper bow of course. And more efficient “Super Cat”-style rudder and better wings.

I’m sure it could be done. After all, isn’t that exactly what Antilles Seaplanes is doing with their revamped Antilles G-21G “Super Goose”?

There are three Cats for sale right now according to the Catalina Society. I’d love to get my hands on them and start working on that. The result would be an evolution of the Cats to true 21st century amphibs: modern avionics, fuel-efficient powerplants, long-range…

Reality is so uncool.

2 Responses to “summer productivity”

  1. Dave Marion says:

    Why would you mix 550 shp PT6A-6 engines with 1200 shp PT6A-67’s? Just because that combo gives you approximately the same hp configuration as the Bird Innovator? So what! Why not just put four of the same model engine on it? They don’t have to be all 1200 shp engines. You could use four 850 or 1050 shp PT6A engines (-42 or -60 series for example) and still have more total horsepower. It’d be simpler for maintenance and for stocking spare parts. You could always shut down two engines in flight to save fuel – the same way that they shut them down on a US Navy P-3 Orion patrol plane.

    By the way, Antilles is NOT building “Grumman G-21 ‘Super Gooses'” – there is no such thing. We’re building Antilles G-21G “Super Gooses” which are based on the McKinnon G-21G “Turbo Goose”. It falls under a completely different type certificate (TC 4A24) than the original Grumman piston-powered Gooses (TC 654).

    • raph says:

      Yes I was following the Innovator combo… From what I read about the Bird Innovator, the smaller engines were actually mostly to improve airflow and not for performance and I just followed on that, although I guess your suggestion does indeed make more sense as we’re talking about replacing the engines altogether.

      Note, I’m not actually an aeronautical engineer, I was just thinking out loud 🙂 It would be interesting if someone actually got around to put this to a test on a real Catalina some day. I’m pretty sure the airframe could take it. Food for thoughts…

      Thank you for the clarification about the Goose, I will edit my text accordingly.

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