This, ladies and gentlemen, is the massive Grumman Albatross.
Do not confuse it with the large (and delicious) sea-bird, for this Albatross is far more impressive.
Designed in the late 1940’s to be a long-range amphibious search-and-rescue aircraft capable of landing in the open ocean, the Albatross is a sight to behold. Styled in the tradition of the Goose and the Mallard, the Albatross is basically a beefed-up version of these smaller amphibians.
She is imposing to see in person, her 96-foot wingspan and 22,000 pound airframe dwarfing nearby aircraft. The distinctive and LOUD roar of two massive Wright R-1820-76 radials will make your ears bleed (in a good way.) Each of those Wright engines puts out a massive 1,425 horsepower, giving this bird some get-up-and-go. I know that I personally would be laughing like a madman as I pushed the throttle forward and felt engines roar to life…man, radial engines are sexy.
Turn your speakers up!
The Albatross has a maximum takeoff weight of just more than 37,000 pounds. She cruises at about 150 knots, burning 53 gallons per hour per engine, which makes her somewhat of a thirsty girl. She has the capacity to carry just over 1,000 gallons of fuel between the internal tanks and wing tanks, and drop tanks were used by the military to add another 600 gallons. The Albatross’ range is reported as being somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 miles, varying with fuel load, winds, etc. etc. If you want to, you can climb all the way up into the flight levels; but I suspect most civilian Albatross operators are flying a little lower.
The inside of the Albatross has been described as vast and cavernous. Designed to rescue sailors and provide cargo or medevac services, the Albatross can be configured in many different ways to meet different missions. The Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard all flew the Albatross under varying designations; the Royal Canadian Air Force and other forces throughout the globe also flew the Albatross. It was in active service in Greece right up until retirement in 1995.
Notably, singer and pilot Jimmy Buffett used to fly an Albatross named the Hemisphere Dancer; he purchased it in 1996, a couple of years after crashing his Widgeon on takeoff when a wingtip dragged under water. The Hemisphere Dancer has been retired and now sits outside of Margaritaville, his restaurant in Orlando.
If I ever have a few thousand bucks in my pocket, I’d love to log some time in one of these babies. Another one for the aviation bucket list.
We’ll close with one more video, a beautiful blue and gold Albatross departing from Seattle. What a beautiful sight.