Grumman Albatross Spotter’s Guide – Part 2

SpottersN44RD, Reid Dennis' own custom, long-wing conversion of a former US Navy model HU-16C (Photo courtesy of Bryan Ribbans and Seawings.co.uk)

Grumman Albatross Spotter’s Guide – Part 2

Written by Dave Marion – In one special, literally exceptional case, Mr. Reid Dennis, a venture capitalist from the San Francisco Bay area, built his own custom, long-wing conversion of a Grumman Albatross that was a former U. S. Navy model HU-16C. It was subsequently re-certified and approved under its own, literally unique FAA type certificate in 1998 (TC no. T00003LA) albeit still as a Restricted category aircraft.

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N44RD, Reid Dennis’ own custom, long-wing conversion of a former US Navy model HU-16C (Photo courtesy of Bryan Ribbans and Seawings.co.uk)

The following is an excerpt from an FAA Flight Standardization Board (FSB) Report dated March 22, 1999 that was published by the U. S. Dept. of Transportation and which defined pilot qualifications and type-rating equivalencies for Mr. Dennis’ custom-modified Grumman Albatross. In this particular FSB report, the author described the aircraft in question as a model HU16-RD but according to the applicable TC (no. T00003LA) it was really more properly identified as a model HU-16RD. I know that it is only a misplaced hyphen, but even something as seemingly minor or simple as that can make a big difference; consider the difference between an F4D (a Douglas Skyray) and an F-4D (a McDonnell Phantom II – pre-merger with Douglas.)

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Albatross N44RD showing why it is unique – although a long-wing conversion, it still has the short-chord horizontal stabilizers of a short-wing HU-16C, just as it was originally built by Grumman in 1955 (courtesy of Bryan Ribbans and Seawings.co.uk)

The FSB report in question contains the following description of the aircraft types to which it is applicable:

The Grumman Albatross started out as a G-64 model, which was the prototype designation from the Grumman factory. UF-1 was the first Navy designation and has short wings. UF-1G & 2G’s were modified UF-1’s, which included electronic updates current for their time. HU-16 A’s, & C’s are Navy short wing models. HU-16 B’s, D’s, and E’s are Navy long wing models. HU-16 GR’s are the factory first models of the Navy HU-16 production. SA-16’s are USAF designations. GSA-16’s are the factory first models of the USAF Albatross production. SA-16A’s are short wing models of the USAF Albatross. SA-16B’s are the long wing models of the USAF Albatross. LU-16-C’s are Coast Guard trainer designations of the Albatross. TU-16’s are USAF and Navy trainer designations of the Albatross. G-111 is the Transport Certified model of the Albatross. HU-16RD, the focal point of this FSB report, is a highly modified HU-16, certified in the Restricted Category.”

There are a lot of errors in that single paragraph, so I will break them down one statement at a time.

The Grumman Albatross started out as a G-64 model, which was the prototype designation from the Grumman factory.” While the Albatross was initially conceived as Grumman design no. G-64, the two pre-production prototypes built specifically for the Navy carried their model designation XJR2F-1 which decodes as (X) Experimental, (JR) Utility Amphibian, (2) second such type* built by (F) Grumman and (-1) first sub-type.

UF-1 was the first Navy designation and has short wings.” Actually, as already noted the very first U. S. Navy designation for the Albatross series was the one used for the “Pelican” pre-production prototypes – XJR2F-1. After that, the initial batch of production short-wing aircraft was going to carry the Navy designation PF-1 before they were diverted to the USAF as SA-16A aircraft. After all of that, when the first new aircraft were finally built for the Navy, they were designated as models UF-1, but that was true only up until 1962 when the formal DOD designation for them was changed to HU-16C.

UF-1G & 2G’s were modified UF-1’s, which included electronic updates current for their time.” Actually a UF-1G was simply a short-wing Albatross in Coast Guard service. While most (but not all) UF-2 series aircraft were conversions of short-wing Albatrosses into long-wing variants, the Navy UF-1 aircraft so converted became models UF-2 and only the Coast Guard models UF-1G became long-wing UF-2G variants.

HU-16 A’s, & C’s are Navy short wing models.” No! The HU-16A was the short-wing USAF variant re-designated from SA-16A after 1962. The HU-16C was the Navy short-wing variant re-designated from UF-1 after 1962.

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The custom interior of the main cabin of Albatross N44RD – surely capable of carrying all of your friends! (via Wikipedia)

HU-16 B’s, D’s, and E’s are Navy long wing models.” No! The HU-16B was the USAF long-wing variant re-designated from SA-16B after 1962. The HU-16D was the USN long-wing variant re-designated from UF-2 after 1962. The HU-16E was the USCG long-wing variant re-designated from UF-2G after 1962.

HU-16 GR’s are the factory first models of the Navy HU-16 production.” No! The “GR” code is the simply manufacturer’s designation that is part of a longer, more complete, official model designation used just by the USAF before 1962 and by all of the DOD (Department of Defense) from 1962 onward. Thus, an SA-16A was more formally-speaking actually an SA-16A-GR-XX in which the “XX” was a particular production “Block Number” which typically started with 1, then 5, then incremented by 5 from then on (e.g. 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, and so on.)

SA-16’s are USAF designations.“ True except for the tense; they “were” only before 1962, but that designation was not valid any more after 1962.

GSA-16’s are the factory first models of the USAF Albatross production.” I have never ever seen or heard of this particular designation before now, and so do not believe that it is valid in any way. The very first “production” G-64 series aircraft (excluding the two Navy pre-production model XJR2F-1 “Pelican” prototypes) were originally slated for the Navy as models PF-1 but eventually completed and delivered to the USAF instead as model SA-16A aircraft.

SA-16A’s are short wing models of the USAF Albatross.” Were, not are – only before 1962.

SA-16B’s are the long wing models of the USAF Albatross.” Once again were, not are – only before 1962.

LU-16-C’s are Coast Guard trainer designations of the Albatross.” No! the LU-16C (with no second hyphen) aircraft were specialized, winterized, and structurally reinforced U. S. Navy models HU-16C specifically configured for Arctic operations. They were previously designated as models UF-1L before 1962.

TU-16’s are USAF and Navy trainer designations of the Albatross.” Nope – just Navy, but not USAF too.

G-111 is the Transport Certified model of the Albatross.” Only in terms of FAA civil certification, that is true relative to Type Certificate no. A22SO, but historically speaking the “G-111” design number or model designation was first used internally at Grumman specifically to represent the project to convert short-wing G-64 aircraft to the new, long-wing, “design number” G-111 configuration for the USAF. These conversions were also designated with Grumman “Project” numbers ranging from 00B up to 88B. The subsequent long-wing conversions for the U. S. Navy were designated as Grumman internal design number G-211 aircraft and carried “Project” numbers from 01D up to 34D. Similarly, the long-wing conversions done for the U. S. Coast Guard were variously Grumman internal design number G-234, G-270, and G-288 aircraft and carried “Project” number codes 01C through 79C.

Confusingly, the thirteen (13) aircraft much later converted by Grumman Aerospace Corporation primarily for Resorts International in the 1979 – 1983 time frame to become actual civilian models “G-111” formally certified as such under Part 25 Transport Category standards were taken from a variety of earlier aircraft and model designations, including several former U. S. Navy, U. S. Coast Guard, Canadian RCAF, and Japanese JMSDF aircraft. Even more confusingly they were still identified by a variety of different military serial numbers instead of their consistent, legacy Grumman construction numbers, which for the entire Albatross fleet ranged from serial no. G-1 up to serial no. G-464.

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Albatross N44RD as it is currently featured at the Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos, CA (via Wikipedia)

HU-16RD, the focal point of this FSB report, is a highly modified HU-16, certified in the Restricted Category.” The lone model HU-16RD Albatross (registered as N44RD) is really basically just a glorified “homebuilt” or “do-it-yourself” long-wing conversion of a Grumman Albatross that was done not by Grumman at all but actually by its former, private (i.e. civilian) owner, Mr. Reid Dennis (admittedly in conjunction with a very large staff of professional aeronautical engineers, etc.) It was eventually approved as such by the FAA under its own unique type certificate, no. T00003LA. The point is now moot since the aircraft is no longer operational – it was donated in March 2013 by Mr. Dennis to the Hiller Aviation Museum in California to be preserved and put on display. Its FAA registration in Hiller’s name expired earlier this year.

Beyond the admittedly limited scope of that single FSB report pertaining just to Albatross N44RD, the FAA also made a complete mess of another, more formal and arguably wider reaching, official document concerning Grumman Albatrosses– Type Certificate no. A33SO. More on that another time, but in the meantime, anyone wanting to do some homework of their own can read this

Dave Marion is the Technical Content Editor at Seaplanemagazine.com. As A&P and IA with 30 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]

Read Part 1 Of This Story Here!

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