Grumman designed the versatile Albatross to meet a U.S. Navy requirement for an amphibious utility aircraft which could also operate from snow and ice with skis. 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.
The prototype first flew on Oct. 24, 1947, and soon after the U.S. Air Force ordered a quantity for air-sea rescue duties as SA-16As. Grumman delivered 297 A models to the Air Force, mostly for the Air Rescue Service. In 1962 the USAF changed the designation to HU-16.
In 1955 Grumman developed an improved version with a 16 1/2 foot increase in wingspan and larger aileron and tail surfaces. Beginning in 1957, many A models were converted to the B configuration with these improvements.
The HU-16 on display was one of the last operational USAF Albatrosses. The aircraft established a world altitude record for twin-engine amphibians when it reached 32,883 feet on July 4, 1973. The crew for this record setting flight included Lt. Col. Chuck Manning, pilot; Maj. Paul Schaefer, co-pilot; and Tech. Sgt. Ed Schindler, flight mechanic. Two weeks later, the aircraft was retired and flown to the museum.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Engines: Two Wright R-1820s of 1,425 hp each Maximum speed: 250 mph Range: 1,650 miles Span: 96 ft. 8 in. Length: 62 ft. 10 in. Height: 25 ft. 10 in. Weight: 36,000 lbs. maximum Serial number: 51-5282