The Consolidated XPY-1 Admiral was the first in a series of designs that would eventually produce the PBY Catalina, the most successful fly boat ever built. The basic design of the XPY was developed by the US Navy. They then offered the design to the aircraft industry and asked for bids for the construction of a prototype. Consolidated’s bid of $150,000 was the lowest, and so on 28 February 1928 they were awarded the contract to produce one prototype of the new aircraft.
The XPY was a very modern design for the period. It was the first monoplane flying boat to be developed for the US Navy, with an all-metal hull and fabric covered wings. The wing was supported on a series of struts, as were the two stabilising floats. The engines (two 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-38s) were mounted between the fuselage and the wings.
The prototype was completed in December 1928. It then had to be disassembled and moved to NAS Anacostia for tests, making its first flight on 10 January 1929.
The design made extensive use of the aluminium alloys that were in the process of revolutionising aircraft design, and the costs involved in developing the new aircraft played a part in Consolidated’s failure to win the production contract. In June 1929 the Navy issued an open request for bids to build the new aircraft. Consolidate decided to include some of the development costs in their bid. Having already been paid $150,000 to cover those very costs, this was not the wisest of moves.
The Glenn L. Martin Co. made a lower bid based on the actual cost of producing the new aircraft, and was awarded the contract. They didn’t actually benefit much from this victory, eventually producing one XP2M-1 prototype and nine P3Ms.
Despite having lost the Navy contract, Consolidated were still free to produce commercial versions of the XPY-1, and to use it as the basis for new designs. The Consolidated Commodore was able to carry 28 passengers on shorter routes, or a small number on long-haul flights between New York, the Caribbean and South America. Fourteen were built for the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA), an early airline that was forced to merge with Pan American in 1930. Consolidated also used the XPY and the Commodore as the basis for the P2Y.