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Grumman Albatross

The Grumman HU-16 Albatross is a large twin radial engine amphibious seaplane that was used by the United States Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, primarily as a search and rescue aircraft.

Originally designated as the SA-16 for the USAF and the JR2F-1 and UF-1 for the USN and USCG, it was redesignated as the HU-16 in 1962.

An improvement of the design of the Grumman Mallard, the Albatross was developed to land in open-ocean situations to accomplish rescues.

Its deep-V hull cross-section and keel length enable it to land in the open sea.

The Albatross was designed for optimal 4-foot (1.2 m) seas, and could land in more severe conditions, but required JATO (jet-assisted take-off, or simply booster rockets) for take-off in 8–10-foot (2.4–3.0 m) seas or greater.

Most Albatrosses were used by the U.S. Air Force (USAF), primarily in the search and rescue (SAR) mission role, and initially designated as SA-16.

The USAF used the SA-16 extensively in Korea for combat rescue, where it gained a reputation as a rugged and seaworthy craft.

Later, the redesignated HU-16B (long-wing variant) Albatross was used by the USAF’s Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service and saw extensive combat service during the Vietnam War.

In addition, a small number of Air National Guard air commando groups were equipped with HU-16s for covert infiltration and extraction of special forces from 1956 to 1971.

Other examples of the HU-16 made their way into Air Force Reserve rescue and recovery units prior to its retirement from USAF service.

The U.S. Navy also employed the HU-16C/D Albatross as an SAR aircraft from coastal naval air stations, both stateside and overseas.

It was also employed as an operational support aircraft worldwide and for missions from the former Naval Air Station Agana, Guam, during the Vietnam War.

Goodwill flights were also common to the surrounding Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in the early 1970s.

Open-water landings and water take-off training using JATO was also conducted frequently by U.S. Navy HU-16s from locations such as NAS Agana, Guam; Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii; NAS North Island, California, NAS Key West, Florida; NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and NAS Pensacola, Florida, among other locations.

The HU-16 was also operated by the U.S. Coast Guard as both a coastal and long-range open-ocean SAR aircraft for many years until it was supplanted by the HU-25 Guardian and HC-130 Hercules.

The final USAF HU-16 flight was the delivery of AF Serial No. 51-5282 to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in July 1973 after setting an altitude record of 32,883 ft earlier in the month.

The final US Navy HU-16 flight was made 13 August 1976, when an Albatross was delivered to the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Florida.

The final USCG HU-16 flight was at CGAS Cape Cod in March 1983, when the aircraft type was retired by the USCG.

The Albatross continued to be used in the military service of other countries, the last being retired by the Hellenic Navy (Greece) in 1995.

The Royal Canadian Air Force operated Grumman Albatrosses with the designation “CSR-110”.



Prototype designation, two built.

HU-16A (originally SA-16A) 

USAF version

HU-16A (originally UF-1) 

Indonesian version

HU-16B (originally SA-16B) 

USAF version (modified with long wing)

SHU-16B (modified HU-16B for Anti-Submarine Warfare) 

Export version

HU-16C (originally UF-1) 

US Navy version

LU-16C (originally UF-1L) 

US Navy version

TU-16C (originally UF-1T) 

US Navy version

HU-16D (originally UF-1) 

US Navy version (modified with long wing)

HU-16D (originally UF-2)

  German version (built with long wing)

HU-16E (originally UF-2G) 

US Coast Guard version (modified with long wing)

HU-16E (originally SA-16A) 

USAF version (modified with long wing)

G-111 (originally SA-16A) 

derived from USAF, JASDF, and German originals


RCAF version.





10 passengers


62 ft 10 in (19.15 m)


96 ft 8 in (29.46 m)


25 ft 10 in (7.87 m)

Wing area

1,035 sq ft (96.2 m2)


NACA 23017

Empty weight

22,883 lb (10,380 kg)

Gross weight

30,353 lb (13,768 kg)

Max take-off weight

37,500 lb (17,010 kg)

Fuel capacity

675 US gal (562.1 imp gal; 2,555.2 l) internal fuel


400 US gal (333.1 imp gal; 1,514.2 l) in wingtip floats


Two 300 US gal (249.8 imp gal; 1,135.6 l) drop tanks


2 × Wright R-1820-76A Cyclone 9,

9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines,

1,425 hp (1,063 kW) each for take-off

1,275 hp (951 kW) normal rating from sea level to 3,000 ft (914 m)


3-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed fully feathering reversible-pitch propellers


Maximum speed

236 mph (380 km/h, 205 kn)

Cruise speed

124 mph (200 km/h, 108 kn)

Stall speed

74 mph (119 km/h, 64 kn)


2,850 mi (4,590 km, 2,480 nmi)

Service ceiling

21,500 ft (6,600 m)

Rate of climb

1,450 ft/min (7.4 m/s).





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