Grumman UH-16B Albatross

The versatile "Albatross" amphibian was designed to meet a Navy requirement for a utility aircraft which could operate from land or water and, with skis, from snow and ice.  The prototype first flew on October 24, 1947 and soon after the USAF ordered a quantity for air-sea rescue duties as SA-16As.  (In 1962 the USAF designation was changed to HU-16.) Grumman delivered 297 "-A"s to the Air Force.  Most were assigned to the Air Rescue Service.

In 1955, Grumman developed an improved version with a 16 1/2 foot increase in wing span and larger aileron and tail surfaces.  Beginning in 1957, many "-A"s were converted to the "-B" configuration with these improvements.

The Albatross is best known as a rescue aircraft.  During the Korean War, Albatrosses rescued almost 1,000 United Nations personnel from coastal waters and rivers, often behind enemy lines.  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.

This HU-16 is 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 U.S. Air Force Museum.  (NMUSAF)

 

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