Grumman HU-16B Albatross
Although the Albatross originally was to be used by the US Navy as an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, it was actually the fledgling US Air Force that made the first purchase of 52 SA-16As for use as a search and rescue plane. The first Albatross was delivered in July of 1949 and it was only a year later that the Air Force began using them in Korea. Not only did it perform open water rescue of downed aircrew, but also the Albatross would fly into North Korea and land in rivers to retrieve pilots before they became prisoners of war. During the Korean conflict over 1000 UN personal were rescued and returned to safety by the HU-16 and its crews. During the Vietnam War, although for the most part replaced by the helicopter in the rescue role, it still saved 47 air crewmen. Grumman utilized the Curtis Wright 1820-76 engines that produced 1425 horse power. They turn 11-foot diameter constant speed propellers that have reverse thrust for maneuvering on the water. The aircraft is by no means small with the vertical stabilizer reaching a height of 26 feet and wing span being almost 97 feet. Overall length is 69 feet and it draws 3 and ½ feet of water with the gear up. Maximum gross weights are 36,000 pounds on land and 32,000 pounds on the water. She can carry 1,670 gallons of fuel when fitted with two 300-gallon drop tanks giving a range in excess of 2500 miles. For rough water and short field operations the crew had the option of using JATO or rocket assisted take off. The racks mounted on the rear doors could carry 4 JATO bottles rated at 1000 pounds of thrust each.
The crew of six consisted of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator, and two observers. After the Air Force the US Navy did purchase the aircraft along with the US Coast Guard and 21 foreign countries which included Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Iceland, Japan and Mexico, just to name a few.
Built in 1951, this airplane served in the US Air Force through the early 60s then was sent back to Grumman and refitted to serve in the anti-submarine roll and designated HU16B-ASW. Only 37 of this type were built. It was fitted with special search radar in the nose, a retractable Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD Boom) in the tail, sonar buoy launcher and 5 hard points under the wings. The hard points could carry 500-pound bombs, depth charges, torpedoes or rocket pods. The crew could not only find subs but destroy them as well. This aircraft served in the Chilean Air Force as part of the NATO exchange program during the cold war.
Julie, along with her husband John, finished a five-year restoration project on the Albatross. Converted for civilian use they have made it their flying yacht. All of the heavy military gear has been removed and now the interior has a full galley with dinette, flushing head, shower with hot and cold running water and sleeping accommodations. She is fully self contained with 110 volt APU and even has central heat and air conditioning. The Fetckos travel the US and Canada during the summer months and may be seen "camping" on a lake near you.