05 November 2009

Dr. Forrest Bird, head of a biomedical engineering corporation based in Palm Springs, bought a Consolidated PBY Catalina (specifically it was a Canadian-built PBY-5 Canso) that in 1968 he had modified into a four-engined configuration called the Bird Innovator. Outboard of the existing radial engines were added nacelles accommodating 360-horsepower Lycoming piston engines driving Hartzell three bladed propellers. Though the speed increase from the Lycomings was modest, the real improvement came from the propwash of the new additonal engines which, in effect, acted to energize the airflow across the outer wings of the Catalina which were notorius for being sluggish particularly in engine out situations.

The Bird Innovator also had strengthened wings and a taller fin and rudder as well. The engineer's controls were also moved to the cockpit to allow the aircraft to be operated by a single pilot. After passing through various owners, the aircraft in 1997 was returned back to its original layout.

Source: General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors by John Wegg. Putnam Aeronautical Books/Naval Institute Press, 1990, p78.

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