Grumman Amphibians…Another Side of the Legendary Iron Works

Did you know that the Grumman Corporation built airliners? In the years just prior to the beginning of World War II, Grumman – who has produced a legendary line of naval fighters and bombers – began to build a small amphibious commuter aircraft. Ultimately, four seaplane types, similar in design, came long. Here is a look at what I consider Grumman’s line of airliners:

In May, 1937 Grumman’s G-21A Goose took to the air for the first time. The high-winged twin was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp engines, and was developed in response to a request for a commuter aircraft for travel between Long Island and New York City. The amphibian could carry six or seven passengers, and two crew. This design was sometimes referred to as an “air yacht” due to the wealthy passengers that they sometimes served.

After World War II began, the U.S. Navy adopted this first Grumman amphibious transport as the JRF-1. Later during the war, orders came from the U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

After the war ended, McKinnon Enterprises modified a number of Goose (Geese?) airframes, with different piston and turboprop engines, along with airframe modifications. The so-called McKinnon Goose had four Lycoming GSO-480 engines, and Turbo Goose fitted a pair of P&WC PT-6A turboprops.

Another Goose modification was a one-off modification by Kaman Aircraft as the K-16B, complete with a tiltwing and a pair of General Electric T58 turboprops.

In all, some 345 civil and military units were built; many former military JRFs were scooped up by civilian operators after the war.

The next-designed amphibian with the same layout of the Goose was named the G-44 Widgeon. Its first flight was in June, 1940 equipped with a pair of Ranger in-line piston engines. Smaller than the G-21A Goose, the Widgeon could seat 5 people.

Many were utilized by the United States during World War II, some were tasked with patrol and anti-submarine duties, others as transports. This design was operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy as the J4F. In Army Air Force and Civil Air Patrol guise, they were known as the OA-14.

After the war, Grumman manufactured 76 new G-44As with a redesigned hull. French concern Societe Construction Aeronavale (SCAN) built 41 more under license as the SCAN 30. McKinnon Enterprises rebuilt scores of Widgeons as “Super Widgeons”, with upgraded Avco Lycoming GO-480 engines and three-bladed props – and many more comforts in the cabin too.  

In all, 317 Widgeons were built, some under license.

The Grumman G-73 Mallard was a larger aircraft, seating twelve people, including crew. Equipped with Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engines, it was envisioned as a port-to-port commuter aircraft. Fifty-nine were produced, and these were used as commuter and executive transports. The first flight of the Grumman Mallard was in April, 1946.

Only one made it into military service, that of the Royal Egyptian Air Force.

Later, Frakes Aviation re-engined some of the Mallards with P&WC PT-6A turboprops, renaming it the Turbo Mallard.

Seaplane airlines Antilles Air Boats and Chalk’s Ocean Airways operated Mallards and Turbo Mallards.

Finally, the Grumman G-111 Albatross was an adaptation of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard HU-16 amphibious rescue seaplane. The Albatross was an enlarged and improved G-73 Mallard design. The original HU-16’s first flight was in October, 1947 and was found to be a valuable air sea rescue asset around the world.

Chalk’s International Airlines took thirteen Albatrosses and modified them into G-111 civilian airliners, Thirty passengers could be flown between Miami and a handful of destinations in the Bahamas. Other Albatrosses still flying today are former military aircraft converted to warbird status, or are privately owned.

Hover over the thumbnail for the type of aircraft, or click for an enlarged picture

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