McKinnon’s Most-Modified Goose – Part 3
Written by Dave Marion – It was only after all of those different changes had been made to N150M, it had gone through three major and completely different re-certification programs, and it had been in his possession for almost a decade that McKinnon was finally willing or able to sell it to someone else. As it approached final completion and re-certification with the new turbine engines per STC no. SA1320WE, McKinnon sold N150M to the owner of the Precision Valve Corporation of Yonkers, NY in December 1966 but they did not take actual possession of it until after its new certificate of airworthiness was issued in February 1967.
The founder and owner of Precision Valve Corporation, Mr. Robert H. Abplanalp, was the son of Swiss immigrants. He was born in the Bronx in 1922, graduated from Fordham Preparatory School in 1939, and studied engineering for 3 years at Villanova University. However, he dropped out and started his own little machine shop business. After serving in the U. S. Army during World War II, he returned to his machine shop business after the war. From there, he went on to invent the modern aerosol spray valve that was made of plastic which made it both cheap and simple enough to mass-produce. He founded Precision Valve Corporation in 1949 and the company very quickly marketed and sold over 15,000,000 aerosol spray valves by its second year.
Probably not coincidental to his purchase of N150M in December 1966, Mr. Abplanalp shortly thereafter negotiated and signed a lease with the government of the Bahamas in 1968 to develop Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island in that chain, as a premier sport fishing resort hotel and marina. Because of its relatively small size and exclusivity and its proximity to deep Atlantic water as well as shallower Bahamian waters and reefs, Walker’s Cay became a favorite destination of deep-sea fishing enthusiasts and “A-list” celebrities looking for a secluded vacation get-away.
Among the notable fans of Walker’s Cay was Republican President Richard M. Nixon, with whom Bob Abplanalp had developed a close friendship in the early 1960’s. Nixon even stayed in Abplanalp’s personal residence on the nearby Big Grand Cay. The two were so close, Abplanalp eventually bought a house adjoining Nixon’s “southern White House” on Key Biscayne in Miami and let the Secret Service use it free of charge anytime Nixon was there. Later, he also helped Nixon buy his retirement home in San Clemente, CA where he lived after resigning the Presidency in August 1974.
In January 1972, Precision Valve Corp. transferred title for N150M to a new division of the company, Precision Airlines Inc. which was registered, probably for tax-shelter purposes, in the state of Delaware. In April 1974, the registration for N150M was changed once again, as a result of a name change when Precision Airlines Inc. became the Aero Maintenance Service Corp. The following month, in May 1974, N150M was sold through temporary broker, AFM Corporation of South Hadley, MA to new owner Peyton Hawes of Portland, OR. The respective bills of sale first to AFM and then on to Mr. Hawes were actually both signed on the very same day; May 3, 1974. Mr. Hawes was the co-founder and owner of the Payless Drug Stores chain.
At the time that he bought N150M (1960 McKinnon G-21D serial no. 1251) and it returned to the west coast, Peyton Hawes also already owned another turbine Goose, N5558 (1969 McKinnon G-21G serial no. 1205.) He bought N5558 from the First National Bank of Portland in November 1972 after it had been seized along with other physical assets in the wake of the bankruptcy of McKinnon Enterprises Inc. Even though it did not have the same 14-seat capacity as the unique model G-21D, the later model G-21G aircraft had more powerful, 680 shp PT6A-27 engines and was rated and certified all the way up to the maximum “small” aircraft and single-pilot operational weight limit of 12,500 lbs. and it was also still capable of carrying a total of 10 people including the pilot.
Probably as a result of the small differences in their capabilities, after owning N150M for only a little bit over 3 years, on September 7, 1977, Hawes sold it to Harold “Bubba” Beal of On Mark Aviation in Knoxville, TN.* Bubba Beal was a noted warbird enthusiast in his own right; he and partner Charles “Chub” Smith raced Grumman F8F Bearcats and other old WW2 era fighter aircraft at Reno and Beale also helped to obtain a bunch of surplus Corsairs from the air force in Honduras. The sale transaction for N150M was actually brokered through its builder, Angus McKinnon, who by that time was doing business as McKinnon Coach Inc.
(*Not to be confused with On Mark Engineering of Van Nuys, CA which converted and rebuilt old Douglas A-26 / B-26 bombers for the USAF to be used for counter-insurgency (COIN) duties in Viet Nam and also built unpressurized “Marketeer” and pressurized “Marksman” civilian executive transports out of the same airframes.)
According to what Beal told me personally when he visited the Antilles Seaplanes shop in Gibsonville, NC in 2008, after losing the seaplane business in the early 1970’s and transferring most of his aviation assets (TC 4A24 and all of his Goose and Widgeon STCs) to former employee Nils Christensen, who left to start Viking Air Ltd. in Sydney, BC, McKinnon later went on to start a tour bus conversion and customizing business – the aforementioned McKinnon Coach Inc. Beal also told me directly that even compared to all of the more glamorous or otherwise more obviously impressive aircraft that he ever owned or flew, his McKinnon turbine Goose was his all-time favorite to fly and he also felt that it was the most capable of doing or carrying whatever he needed. Because of that he later regretted doing it, but in March 1980, Beal sold N150M.
The official bill of sale in 1980 was made out to Water Fowl Inc. with an address in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but Beal said that he actually sold it to the infamous Whittington brothers, Bill and Don. The Whittingtons are infamous because after high-profile careers racing airplanes at Reno, open-wheel cars at Indy, and GT cars at LeMans in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and even owning the Road Atlanta racetrack, they were convicted in the late 1980’s of financing their car and airplane racing activities by smuggling drugs into south Florida along with other racers Randy Lanier, John Paul, Sr. and John Paul, Jr.
Inexplicably, although the sale of N150M by On Mark Aviation was dated March 29, 1980, the subsequent application for re-registration by Water Fowl Inc. was not submitted until July 28, 1982. All of the paperwork regarding Water Fowl Inc. was actually signed by someone named Miguel Cassada, who listed himself as president and director of the company. Aside from an FAA Form 337 documenting some avionics changes made to the airplane in September 1982, which were signed by a David Poole of Ft. Lauderdale, that paperwork is the last official record of what happened to N150M.
In the historical profile listed for Goose serial no. 1147 in his book “Grumman Seaplanes – the Goose, Widgeon, & Mallard” British author and aviation historian Fred J. Knight mentions that N150M was supposedly involved in some sort of non-fatal accident at a Ft. Lauderdale airport on June 21, 1980. It was presumably Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport since that is where Don Whittington’s aircraft charter and leasing company World Jet Inc. is located, and it was also presumably a very minor accident since there is no NTSB report on it. That accident, if it happened as Mr. Knight noted, may explain the delay in re-registering the aircraft to Water Fowl Inc. until July 1982; it may be that it was not airworthy and being repaired during that time such that there was no need to re-register it sooner.
Whatever finally became of N150M after that is not really known for certain. The common story is not much more than a rumor, possibly based solely on the supposed connection to the Whittington brothers without any factual basis in reality – that the airplane was seized in Haiti after being caught during the course of some illegal drug-smuggling activities. Afterward, according to the rumor, the airplane was supposedly broken up for scrap and “melted down” or otherwise recycled by the local population. If that is what actually happened to it, it was surely an ignoble and undeserved fate for such a historic and unique aircraft, but we may never know for sure one way or the other.
McKinnon Enterprises Inc. STCs for G-21 Series under TC 654 and TC 4A24
|Installation of Picture Window (Type 1 per Dwg. MPD-5001)|
|Installation of new fiberglass “radar” nose|
|Installation of one-piece “wraparound” windshield|
|Installation of extended dorsal fin|
|Installation of retractable wingtip floats|
|Installation of auxiliary fuel tanks in outboard wing sections|
|Rotary beacon installation|
|Metalizing of wings aft of spar|
|Installation of Gross Weight Increase to 9,200 lbs in conjunction with retractable wingtip floats per STC SA4-682|
|Installation of landing lights in wing leading edges|
|Installation of electric gear retract motor|
|Installation of Chandler Evans fuel pumps (N525 s/n B-117 only)|
|Picture window installation (Type 2 per Dwg. MPD-5100 etc.)|
|Modification of bulkhead Station 26, bulkhead Station 33, cabin floor from Station 13 to 29, and addition of a buoyancy tank|
|Installation of hull vents|
|Installation of 550 shp PT6A-20A engines on McKinnon G-21C or G-21D (only aircraft previously converted by McKinnon under TC 4A24)|
|Installation of 550 shp PT6A-20A engines on Grumman G-21A (legacy aircraft still certified under Grumman’s original TC 654)|
|Increase main fuel tank capacity to 336 gal. (only in combination with turbine engines installed per STC SA1320WE)|
|Installation of Passenger Seats|
|Installation of dual (co-pilot’s) brakes on Grumman G-21A only|
Dave Marion is the Technical Content Editor at Seaplanemagazine.com. As A&P and IA with 29 years of experience in aircraft maintenance, he is also a Commercial Pilot with Airplane, Single & Multi-Engine, and Instrument ratings. He has a BA from Colgate University in 1984 and also graduated cum laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (DAB) with a BS in Aviation Technology in 1990. He can be reached along with all of the editors via E-Mail: [email protected]