Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Lady Of Water & Sky
The Grumman G-111 Albatross flies again
All Grumman Albatross aircraft were military category aircraft, and none were ever certified by the FAA for civilian operation. However, in the early 1980s, Chalk's Ocean Airways approached Grumman with the idea of converting several HU-16s for commercial passenger use.
The conversion would include a complete overhaul of the Albatross including rebuilt, wings with titanium wing spar caps, additional exit doors and hatches, stainless-steel oil tanks, new engine fire-extinguishing systems, prop modifications, rebuilt engines and much more, at a cost of about $1.5 million per airframe. The net result was an aircraft certified to zero time on the airframe and engine. The new configuration would carry 28 passengers in comparative luxury. These 13 received the new model designation of "G-111."
Paul Leveque and Albatross owner Joe Duke enjoy some downtime after beaching the G-111 on a remote shore of Nevada's Lake Mead.
"This was basically a zero-time airplane, but was a disaster when I found it," says Duke, using a flashlight in the early morning light to do the preflight. "But the idea of owning one had intrigued me since my days running small boats out of South Florida as a teenager. The combination of a boat and an airplane appealed to me a great deal."
Duke is a successful businessman with a passion for classic aircraft and vintage cars. Having been in love with aviation since childhood, and after owning several small aircraft, Duke threw himself into this project with the goal of using the aircraft for the good of aviation, not just for himself. He was involved in the Haiti relief missions after the earthquake there in 2010, and they left an impression on him. A soft-spoken and thoughtful man, his classic taste is evident in the meticulous restoration of this aircraft.
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