Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Lady Of Water & Sky
The Grumman G-111 Albatross flies again
The experience of flying a Grumman Albatross assaults all of your senses. Even sitting in its cockpit, one returns to 1948, complete with that unmistakable smell that vintage aircraft share. Duke and his team had to fabricate many of the parts on the aircraft, including the entire instrument panel and center pedestal. Wisely, they kept many of the round gauges and analog instruments. They also removed the characteristic radome that looks like a pimple on the Albatross' nose. Inside, everything is spartan in its zinc chromate green primer glory.
In aviation, there has always been a reverence for the sound of radial engines, and listening to these brutes come to life is something that has to be experienced. The propellers turn in a slow arc as the engine patiently coughs up wads of blue smoke and then settles into a rhythmic rumble. It sounds thick and "brown," like a stack of vintage Marshall amplifiers or warm molasses. Think Lou Rawls repeating "potato, potato, potato" in his deep baritone.
Takeoff in the Albatross is exhilarating. The throttles are where they were when you were a kid playing "airplane" under your kitchen table: on the overhead panel. You grab a fistful while holding the classic-looking, three-quarter-moon yoke. The Albatross accelerates and lumbers into the sky with grace and purpose. LeVeque climbs the Albatross out over the desert and points her toward Lake Mead, which is glistening and crisp in the morning October sun. Joe Duke monitors the myriad of engine gauges and occasionally takes the yoke.
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