The Hu 16 Albatross
This seemed like a good week to have a fun aviation post. Early on when I got started in Aviation one of the first planes that I got introduced in and was the second plane that I ever flew in was the HU-16 Albatross. The Albatross is a twin engine amphibious flying boat that flew for the US Coast Guard, US Air Force and US Navy as a search and rescue plane during the 60’s and 70’s. It first flew in 1947 and was introduced in 1949. Less then 500 were built but stayed in active service until 1995 with the Hellenic Navy, Greece.
This was taken several years ago in Carson City at Dennis Buehn’s hanger where two of his then Albatross’s were parked. The first time I went flying was over Lake Tahoe in Winter and we did touch and goes on the Lake. It’s quite a different experience flying in an amphibious plane. The landings both on water and on land are quite a different experience. How fast the plane stops on water is amazing.
The Albatross was designed to land in 4foot seas but could land in more severe weather if needed. In swells of 8-10 feet a JATO was needed, jet assisted take off. The majority of the Albatross’s in service were used by the US Air Force in their Air Rescue Service during the Korean War for picking up downed pilot. It later went on to be used during the Vietnam War and the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. A small number of planes also went to the Air National Guard as an extraction and infiltration plane for commandos between 1956-1971. The US Navy used the HU-16 from Navy bases stateside and overseas as a search and rescue plane. The final flight for the USAF was AF Serial No. 51-5282 delivered to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in July of 1973 after setting an altitude record of 32,883ft. The US Navy final flight was in August of 1976 when an HU-16 was delivered to the National Museum of the Naval Aviation. The final flight for the USCG was in 1983.
The Albatross had several civilian roles during it’s active service time. The Department of the Interior bought three from the US Navy to be used in the Pacific as the new Trust Territory Airlines. Pan American Airways and Continental started using them for flights to Micronesia as well. The major airlines during the time were not the only parties interested in the Albatross for commercial use. Chalk’s International Airlines owned by Merv Griffin’s Resorts International converted 13 Albatross’s in the 1980’s to G-111. These had extensive modifications and would only be used for a few years.
Currently the satellite company Row 44 uses an HU-16B Albatross to test their in-flight satellite broadband internet as seen here. This was the second Albatross I was able to fly in and is one of the most well maintained Albatross’s I’ve ever seen. The interior is incredibly comfortable and is used often during the Albatross Clinic in Boulder, NV. Albatross One as it is known is a very unique Albatross in that it’s fuselage has the same curvature on top as a Boeing 737 which makes it easier to test parts. Albatross One was also owned by NASA at one time and was used to train astronauts. The signatures of the astronauts that have trained in the plane are featured on one of the doors. While only a handful of Albatross’s still fly today they are a often seen flying around the country.