Twin radials. Amphibious capability. Tailwheel versatility, and legendary durability. Without a doubt one of my favorite airplanes of all time is the Grumman G-21 Goose.
The Goose is rugged, reliable, and sturdy. With classic good looks and retro style, she has ramp appeal anywhere, whether a modern aerodrome or a remote beach.
Conceived back in 1936, the Goose arose from a group of wealthy businessmen who wanted a good way to get from their estates on Long Island to the financial district in downtown New York. The group approached Grumman, who designed the G-21 from the ground up to carry a group of people from a grass airstrip on an estate to a water landing downtown.
Shortly after her birth, military eyes spotted the Goose and discerned that there would be many uses for these Gooses*. The G-21 became the OA-9 and was pressed into service doing reconnaissance and maritime SAR with the Army Air Corps. The Coast Guard and the Navy both purchased and used Gooses for transport, medevac, and Recon/SAR missions. Some Gooses were equipped with weapons rails and carried light bombs for coastal defense or anti-ship warfare. Once the U.S. was on a full-bore war footing, many civilian Gooses were commandeered and designated as OA-13’s. During service with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the RAF, the G-21 was affectionately nicknamed the Goose. The name stuck.
Post-war, the Goose saw use in the civilian world, especially in frontier Alaska. The Department of the Interior operated Gooses to ferry personnel and equipment in and out of rural Alaskan locations, giving rise to the image of the Goose as a quintessential bush plane when in fact she was designed as an executive transport. In my opinion a mark of good aircraft design is the ability to work in a variety of roles. As much as I love modern aircraft design, it seems that modern airplanes lack this philosophy; try landing, say, a Cirrus off-airport somewhere. Without the parachute.
The Goose is a solid performer. Originally, she came equipped with two Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engines cranking out 450 horses each. Over the years some many retrofits were engineered; right now Antilles Seaplanes is making ‘new’ Gooses and installing Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop engines that crank out 680 shp each.
With a useful load of 2,500 pounds the Goose can carry several people plus gear. She can be configured for passengers, freight, or some mix thereof; if I had a Goose of my own I’d convert it to a flying camper. It would be ungodly expensive – the few Gooses for sale seem to run well over half a million dollars – but it would be pretty awesome. After all, you can live in a Goose but you can’t fly a house.
Sadly, my plans to buy a Goose might be complicated by a lack of availability. It is estimated that there are only about 30 of these majestic birds left out of about 345 manufactured; the fact that any remain is a testament to solid design and the durability of well-maintained airplanes.
Rugged, versatile, and timeless in appearance, the Goose is inarguably a great airplane deserving of a bigger spot in aviation history. If I ever win the Megabucks I’ll run out and buy one in a heartbeat, but for now I’ll have to look at old photos and let my mind wander. Growling through the skies over snow-capped mountains and sandy beaches, twin radials purring along at my side…
*Always “Gooses,” never “Geese.”