Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Lady Of Water & Sky
The Grumman G-111 Albatross flies again
In 2008, owner Joe Duke found the 1954 Grumman G-111 Albatross in an Arizona desert storage facility. He spent five years restoring the 30,000-pound flying boat.
If the lack of parts doesn't get you, the operating costs will. With fuel flows of about 50 gallons per hour per engine, along with several quarts of oil, an exorbitant reserve for overhauls on the scarce engines and props, and all the rest of the care and feeding of this airplane, per-hour costs can exceed $1,200 per hour. Still, as a wise old aviation sage once admonished, never calculate the cost of owning an airplane. That's because it has little to do with money and a lot to do with satisfaction. I'd guess Duke feels privileged writing those checks in exchange for flying a time machine.
When it's my turn to fly, I take the right seat like a man savoring the finest steak available. The controls are heavy but well-balanced. She's nimble but ponderous, and her handling reminds me of a DC-3. The throttles feel good in the hand, and you have to press the rudders with conviction to get a response. Nothing happens in a hurry, and she feels solid and responsive. She's a delight, and I'm accustomed to her feel in short time. We sashay around Lake Mead, and all too soon, it's time to give her back.
With each pass for the camera the ground rumbled and the water sprayed in enormous sheets. I knew that Duke and LeVeque were having a great time. And if these beloved aircraft are really more than just a collection of wires, rivets and sheet metal, then this Albatross looked proud. Because in fulfilling his own dream, Duke may have unleashed the destiny this airplane longed for during those 30 years in the desert: to fly again. Dreams are funny things.
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