YouTube – Grumman Albatross
two to four
2 x 1,425 hp ea.
62 ft. 10 in.
96 ft. 8 in.
The Grumman Albatross, officially the Grumman HU-16 Albatross, is credited with the rescue of thousands of airmen from coastal waters and rivers during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The twin radial engine Grumman Albatross is an amphibian aircraft with the ability to perform a variety of missions. It can operate with skis from snow and ice, from land, or water.
After World War II the United States military wanted a replacement for its aging fleet of amphibious aircraft. While surface vessels can carry out search and rescue missions, they are slow and can only cover a minimal search area. In contrast, amphibious aircraft are able to ranch out over vast areas of ocean on a single mission.
Realizing the strategic necessity for effective amphibious aircraft in the U.S. military inventory, the government issued a requirement for a large amphibious design that could easily handle four foot seas, and land in seas up to ten feet, if necessary.
The design that became the Grumman Albatross was based on an enlarged version of their Mallard aircraft. It was selected, in part, because it employed some of the familiar elements of its predecessor aircraft. It was powered by higher performance 1,425 h.p. Wright Radial R-1820 engines, with a stronger fuselage for taking the punishment of landing in rough seas.
Because of the long duration of maritime missions, crew comfort was taken seriously. The aircraft received sound proofing to protect the crew against the noise of the radial engines.
The first of three prototype aircraft first flew on Oct. 24, 1947. The Grumman Albatross first entered service in 1949 with the United States Air Force.
The Grumman Albatross “B” version, with a 16 foot longer wing, was introduced in 1955. Prior to its ultimate designation as HU-16 beginning in 1962, the U.S. Air Force designated the aircraft as SA-16, the U.S. Navy as JR2F-1 and the U.S. Coast Guard as UF-1.
The Grumman Albatross first saw action with the U.S. Air Force in Korea, where it was employed to rescue numerous air crews from waters off the coast. It was there that it became known for its ability to handle rough waters. The amphibian was again used by the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, where it flew many rescue missions.
The U.S. Air National Guard, part of the U.S. Air Force, used a small number of Grumman Albatross aircraft for insertion and extraction of their Special Forces units.
The Grumman Albatross was deployed for search and rescue missions from U.S. Navy bases in the United States and throughout the world. In addition, they also used the aircraft for utility operations and some missions into Vietnam. We have seen numerous uses of the term “skunk runs” in regard to those missions, but can not find the meaning of the term. If anyone knows, please comment below.
The U.S. Coast Guard also deployed the Grumman Albatross, primarily for rescue missions, from inter-coastal waters to long range missions over ocean waters.
A number of air carriers converted the Grumman Albatross to use for passenger service. The conversions included engine modifications for safety and longevity, redundant fire extinguishers for each engine, prop auto feathering, strengthening the wings, adding and enlarging doors and hatches. The amphibians have also been sold to individuals for non-commercial use.
A total of 466 Grumman Albatross aircraft of all types were produced.