Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grumman's Big Boats

C/n G-144, aka 51-0065 was originally delivered in 1952 as a short-wing SA-16A,
but was modified with a long wing and ended up as an HU-16B. It's ultimate fate
is not known, but was probably scrapped.
I was originally considering a sensationalistic title for today's post, something like "Nuclear Strike Albatross Revealed"...after all, there's something nuclearly sinister about SAC's sash art, and something slightly non-sequiter about it appearing on an Albatross.

Grumman’s Albatross series was, in many ways, the culmination of years of flying boat development, starting at the Company’s inception. As we’ve discussed before, what launched Grumman’s fortune was the incorporation of retractable landing gear into amphibian hulls, and a modified version of this system was used, albeit in a larger form, on the Albatross as well.

The Coast Guard had two aircraft with the serial 2125, a Dassault HU-25, and 
this Albatross, c/n G-352, which was originally ordered by the USAF as 
52-125 and which was subsequently transferred to the USCG, keeping its AF
tail number as its new serial. It was then modified with a long wing, becoming 
a UF-2G (re-designated HU-16E in 1962). It was transferred to MASDC in 1973
and has presumably been scrapped. Can anyone ID the lighthouse?
The plane was developed from the Grumman Mallard and Goose, and was designed to handle the rough environment of operating in the open ocean in order to rescue downed aviators. It was designed to handle up to four-foot seas in normal operations, and up to ten-foot seas when takeoff was supplemented with JATO bottles. The Navy originally solicited design proposals, and Grumman answered with their Model 64. Two original prototypes, designated XJR2F-1, were built for the Navy, but by 1947, when they finally flew, the war was over and the service wasn’t really interested in a new aircraft program.

In an odd twist, though, the Air Force was, and ultimately became the largest operator of the flying boat. Eventually, the Navy and the Coast Guard realized the value of this rugged aircraft as well, operating them into the 1980s. Our photos are both official Grumman-issued 8x10 glossies, one of a USCG aircraft, and one from a service that you wouldn’t expect to see flying an amphibian: the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, who used their Albatrosses primarily for executive transport.

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