G-64 / JR2F-1 / UF-1G/2G / SA-16 / HU-16 Albatross
Serving as the first of a series of amphibian flying boats of similar configuration but different size, the Goose was followed in 1939 by the 4,525-pound Widgeon, the 12,750-pound Mallard in 1946, and the 32,000-pound Albatros in 1947. Inspired by the performance of the Grumman Goose during WWII, the U.S. Navy solicited Grumman to design a significantly larger amphibian with longer range. In 1944, Grumman submitted and won approval of its design G-64, to be named Albatross.
Grumman designed the versatile Albatross to meet a U.S. Navy requirement for an amphibious utility aircraft which could also operate from snow and ice with skis. The Albatross saw service with the USAF, U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard. A traditional Grumman "Iron-works" product, the Albatross had two 1,425-horsepower Wright R-1820 engines to pull it off the rough seas, on which it could land. The Grumman Albatross was built in the 1950's was extensively used by the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, the last Navy Albatros was retired in 1976 although the Coast Guard retained a few of these aircraft in active service for a while longer. Grumman designed the versatile Albatross to meet a US Navy requirement for an amphibious utility aircraft which could also operate from snow and ice with skis. It saw service with the USAF, U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard. A traditional "Iron-works" [as Grumman was known] product, the Albatross had two 1,425-horsepower Wright R-1820 engines to pull it off the rough seas, on which it could land.
The prototype first flew on Oct. 24, 1947, and soon after the U.S. Air Force ordered a quantity for air-sea rescue duties as SA-16As. Grumman constructed 466 Albatross amphibians during their production run, which ran from September, 1947 through May, 1961. Soon after the prototype flew in 1947 the U.S. Air Force ordered a quantity for air-sea rescue duties as SA-16A [S for Search and Rescue and A for Amphibian. Grumman delivered 297 A models to the Air Force, mostly for the Air Rescue Service. In 1962 the USAF changed the designation to HU-16. In 1955 Grumman developed an improved version with a 16 1/2 foot increase in wingspan and larger aileron and tail surfaces. Beginning in 1957, many A models were converted to the B configuration with these improvements.
In 1955 Grumman developed an improved version with a 16 1/2 foot increase in wingspan and larger aileron and tail surfaces. Beginning in 1957, many A models were converted to the B configuration with these improvements.
In Navy service the Albatross was known as the XJR2F-1 [JR Utility transport, 2F for the second flying boat built for the Navy by Grumman]. The "JR" designation was dropped from Naval usage after World War II and was replaced by PF-1 and then eventually designated again as UF-1.
The Coast Guard purchased or otherwise obtained a total of 91, beginning in May, 1951. These 91 Albatrosses [nicknamed "Goat"] flew for over 500,000 hours while in service with the Coast Guard. The last Coast Guard Albatross, number 7250, made its final landing on 10 March 1983, at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. The last true amphibious seaplane flown by the Coast Guard was then retired from service. The Coast Guard acquired 17 Convair 240's from the Air Force as an interim replacement for the HU-16 with a planned retirement when the HU-25A arrived on the scene.
Since 1950 the HU-16 Grumman Albatross was the only fixed-wing aircraft capable of performing a rescue on water. In 1950, the development and growth of ARS was tested with the advent of the Korean War. Combat rescue in Korea demanded more equipment, personnel and aircraft than were available. Rescue Coordination Centers (RCC) were setup and long range SB-29 Dumbos and new SA-16 amphibians quickly deployed to Korea.
In 1950, the development and growth of Air Rescue Service was tested with the advent of the Korean War. Combat rescue in Korea demanded more equipment, personnel and aircraft than were available. Rescue Coordination Centers (RCC) were setup and long range SB-29 Dumbos and new SA-16 amphibians quickly deployed to Korea. During the Korean War, Albatrosses rescued almost 1,000 United Nations personnel from coastal waters and rivers, often behind enemy lines. The SA-16 Albatross amphibian performed very well in the Korean War.
Like most of nature's amphibians, the SA-16 Albatross was a creature that excelled in neither land nor water environments. Its real value lay in its ability to function in both environments. And for an Air Force special operations unit that could hardly expect access to established airfields in Soviet-controlled territory, the rugged SA-16 made every lake, river, and inland sea a possible landing site. And there was always the possibility that the 580th Air Resupply and Communications Wing would be called upon to exploit that capability.
The sturdy Albatross cruised at 140 knots and could stay aloft for up to 16 hours with maximum allowable fuel. In this configuration, even its wing-mounted floats held fuel (200 gallons in each float). Unquestionably the most versatile aircraft in the ARC wings, the SA-16 could carry Special Forces teams to every conceivable location on land and water, day or night.
Shortly after its arrival in Libya, the 580th Air Resupply and Communications Wing got a bonus with the arrival of four spankingnew SA-16s from the Grumman factory in Long Island, New York. "Someone" had obviously put the highest priority on the order, as all four SA- 16s had sequential tail numbers (17252, -3, -4, and -5) right off the production line. Perhaps not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the happy SA-16 pilots didn't stop to question why they had suddenly become so important.
With new aircraft, the SA-16 flight began flying classified courier missions involving both material and personnel throughout the Mediterranean, southwest Asia, and southern Europe. The flight's versatility was becoming more apparent every month, and the crews went where the action was. The action came in many different guises and so did the official explanation for these seemingly routine flights. For some special flights, however, there would be no explanation of any sort. There couldn't be, because as far as the US government was concerned, these flights never happened.
In late 1955, an SA-16 pilot from the 580th reported to the US Embassy in Athens, Greece, for a most unusual mission briefing. The stranger in civilian clothes didn't bother to identify himself, and the pilot wasn't foolish enough to press the point. This mission called for a night, low-level infiltration behind Stalin's Iron Curtain into the area of the Balkans where the borders of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece meet. Once there, the aircraft would make a clandestine landing in the darkness on a lake from which three individuals would be extracted and returned to Greece. This type of mission would be recognized as a success only if it was followed by total public silence. Failure, on the other hand, would lead to an embarrassed American president attempting to explain to the world media what an American aircraft - not just any aircraft, but a special operations amphibian - was doing on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. That night no words were exchanged between the aircrew and the trio when the men were pulled into the aircraft or again when they were delivered to Greece. The SA-16 and its crew returned to Wheelus at dawn, and the dark curtain of secrecy silently closed behind them. This was not an isolated event.
In 1962 the USAF changed the designation of the SA-16 to HU-16 [H for Rescue and U for Utility]. The designations U-12 through U-15 were definitely not used, apparently out of convenience to use number U-16 to redesignate the SA-16.
They also made numerous dramatic and hazardous rescues in Southeast Asia, on occasion taxiing many miles over rough, open water when unable to take off. Over the years the HU-16 proved to be a very versatile aircraft. It had a 2500-mile cruising range and can land on water, ice, or snow.
In 1960, as North Vietnam began directing the communist insurgency in South Vietnam, the only aircrew recovery capability of the Air Rescue Service was a handful of Grumman SA-16 Albatross amphibians. Its effectiveness was readily attested to by over 80 aircrew members who had been recovered from the Gulf of Tonkin between 1964 and 1967. Originally, HU-16 amphibians, packed with communications gear, were used to control rescue operations. The HC-54, with greater range and altitude capabilities, replaced the HU-16 in this role in June 1965. Only an interim vehicle, the HC-54 was replaced within six months by the Lockheed HC-130 Hercules. The usefulness of the HU-16 was limited by its slow speed, low altitude, and age, and it was phased out in the late 1960s.
The United States Air Force involvement in the wars of Southeast Asia (SEA) spanned a decade and a half, exacting a toll of 2254 USAF aircraft destroyed in combat and other operations. Aircrew members killed, captured, or missing totaled 1763. During that war the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS) became the greatest combat aircrew recovery force in the history of aerial warfare, saving 3883 lives. The search and rescue task force (SARTF) included a control aircraft, a fighter-bomber escort, and at least two choppers. Depending on the constantly changing factors involved in aircrew recoveries, forward air controllers, fighter escort for MiG combat air patrol (MIGCAP) and, toward the end of the war, even AC-130 gunships might be used. The kinds of aircraft in the SARTF changed as better airframes and improved equipment became available. The airborne mission control aircraft was the nerve center of the search and rescue task force (SARTF). Originally, HU-16 amphibians, packed with communications gear, were used to control rescue operations. The HC-54, with greater range and altitude capabilities, replaced the HU-16 in this role in June 1965. Only an interim vehicle, the HC-54 was replaced within six months by the Lockheed HC-130 Hercules.
The HU-16 Albatross made numerous dramatic and hazardous rescues in Southeast Asia, on occasion taxiing many miles over rough, open water when unable to take off. The rapid increase in rescue requirements generated by direct involvement of U.S. forces created an acute shortage of experienced HU-16 and helicopter pilots. The Air Force approached the Coast Guard for supplemental help at the beginning of 1966. An aviator exchange program was suggested. However, it was not until March 1967 that the Coast Guard agreed on an implementing memorandum of agreement. The HU-16s, replaced by the HH-3Es, were not phased out of Vietnam service by the fall of 1967. By September 30, 1967 the HU-16 Albatross had completed its last. amphibious recovery and was replaced by the HH-3E helicopter.
By 1971, the U-16's, which were then 20-25 years old, had neared the end of their life cycle. Since April 1972, the U-16 aircraft were being phased out at the rate of seven per year due to corrosion, atigue of the main wing spar, and general obsolescence. The remaining HU-16's were not able to keep up with the large RS mission demand. Other Coast Guard aircraft, such as the C-130and the H-3 and H-52 helicopters, were called on handle some of the medium range search missions previously handled by the HU-16's. The Coast Guard also reactivated several C-131's retired by the Air Force. These airplanes were operated until the new MRS aircraft were available.
The prototype airborne oil surveillance system (AOSS I) developed for the U.S. Coast Guard by Aerojet ElectroSystems under Contract DOT-CG-22170A was modified and transferred from a HU-16 aircraft to a HC-130B aircraft. The added capabilities of the new system configuration were verified by a flight test program. Modifications to the system included (1) the addition of a high resolution aerial reconnaissance camera, (2) the addition of a dual look (left and right) capability for the SLAR, (3) automatic SLAR target position location, (4) an airborne remote temperature measurement capability, (5) simultaneous multispectral recording capability for the IR-UV line scanner data, and (6) improved processing of passive microwave imager data. The proven system capabilities of AOSS I combined with the added capabilities incorporated into AOSS II provide a unique and valuable system to support all U.S. Coast Guard missions. By 1977 the system was operational and based at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Since 1950 the HU-16 Grumman Albatross had done yeoman service - an old workhorse and veteran of two wars. It was the only fixed-wing aircraft capable of performing a rescue on water, and its effectiveness would be readily attested to by over 80 aircrew members who had been recovered from the Gulf of Tonkin from 1964 through 1967. Over the years it proved to be a very versatile aircraft. It had a 2500-mile cruising range and can land on water, ice, or snow. Its usefulness was limited, however, by its slow speed, low altitude, and age.
Plans for an HU-16 replacement first got off the ground in 1971, when the Coast Guard Aircraft Characteristics Board met to outline the general requirements for a new MRS aircraft. After reviewing the Board's report, the Coast Guard decided to evaluate the ability of available aircraft to meet the standards proposed through a series of trials with a leased turbo-jet (Israeli-Westwind) and a turbo fan-jet (Cessna Citation). From April to August 1973 the Coast Guard collected test data from the two leased aircraft. Evaluation of the data determined that the proposed MRS aircraft should have a multi-engine fan jet configuration. The new HU-25A MRS aircraft is a derivative of the Falcon 20G business jet manufactured by the Falcon Jet Corporation.
By Fiscal Year 1979 there were no HU-16's in the Coast Guard inventory.
On 12 August 1976 the last of the Navy's seaplanes, a HU-16 Albatross, departed Guantanamo Bay for the Naval Aviation Museum in NAS, Pensacola, Fla. A 20-year old C-131 passenger/cargo plane replaced the air station's HU-16 seaplanes.
The HU-16 on display at the Air Force Museum was one of the last operational USAF Albatrosses. It established a world altitude record for twin-engine amphibians when it reached 32,883 feet on July 4, 1973. Two weeks later, it was flown to the museum.
Engines: Two Wright R-1820s of 1,425 hp each
Maximum speed: 250 mph
Range: 1,650 miles
Span: 96 ft. 8 in.
Length: 62 ft. 10 in.
Height: 25 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 36,000 lbs. maximum
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