The Grumman Albatross is unusual in that, unlike most military aircraft, its design work started as a private venture for a potential replacement for their Goose. In April of 1944 Grumman design G-64 which would later evolve into the albatross, was initiated to be used as a utility transport, trainer and air-sea rescue aircraft. Although superficially resembling the Mallard, the XJR2F-1 prototype, which eventually flew on October 1, 1947 was a much larger aircraft, the largest that Grumman had ever built. The second prototype was given the interim U.S. Navy designation of PF-1. The Navy funded construction of two prototypes and, although pleased with the performance of the aircraft, lacked the additional funds for a production contract. Fortunately for Grumman, the newly independent Air Force was eager to begin maritime operations. Additionally it had a requirement for a rescue amphibian to replace the aging OA-10 Catalina and it had money to spend. It assumed the Navy's original order for 32 PF-1s, changed the designation to SA-16A and contracted for an additional batch of 28 machines. This would later grow to 273, making a total of 305. It would be December of 1949 before the Navy finally took delivery of its first of 99 aircraft. In March of 1952, the U.S. Coast Guard received the first of its 46 aircraft. Foreign interest soon followed.
The Albatross during its service life had a number of designations. The Grumman prototype designation was XJR2F. The original Air Force designation was SA-16A, while the Navy's designation for production aircraft was UF-1 and the Coast Guard designated them UF-1G. All of the aircraft were identical, with minor differences in on board electronics to fit the needs of the using service. In 1956, an improved version of the Albatross was introduced which was designated SA-16B, UF-2 and UF-2G by the Air Force, navy and Coast Guard respectively. An ASW version was built under the designation SA-16B/ASW with the Navy designation UF-2S. As if this were not confusing enough, during 1962 a unified designation system was introduced in the military which resulted in the Air Force machines becoming HU-16As and HU-16Bs, the Navy aircraft becoming HU-16Cs and HU-16Ds and the Coast Guard aircraft becoming HU-16Es (by this time all of the UF-Gs had been retired).
A major prerequisite for an aircraft engaged in search and rescue or surveillance operations was endurance and the Albatross had it in abundance. Auxiliary under wing tanks of 100, 150 o,r more commonly, 300 gallons could be carried. With these larger tanks later versions of the Albatross could easily stay airborne for 20 hours. Pushing it to the limit an endurance flight of more than 25 hours was logged. The Albatross held numerous records for amphibious aircraft including longest non-stop flight (3,104 miles) and an altitude record (32,883 feet).
The wing on the Albatross incorporated fixed leading edge slots outboard of the float pylons. The slots served to enhance low speed performance and handling characteristics. The first six production aircraft had dry floats, on all other aircraft the pylon mounted floats served double duty as fuel tanks containing an additional 200 gallons each. Power was supplied by two Wright 1820-76 air cooled radial engines driving Hamilton Standard three bladed constant speed, controllable pitch, reversing propellers. Two JATO bottles could be attached on each side of the fuselage, on the exterior of the port and starboard rear hull doors. The port side door was a two part 'Dutch door' design. In heavy seas the lower section could be left closed ensuring that there was enough free-board to prevent the aircraft from taking on water. A hatch on the hull nose in front of the cockpit allowed a crewman to handle a boat hook or lines to assist with rescue operations or mooring.
In its basic configuration for search and rescue, the Albatross generally carried a crew of six (pilot, co-pilot, radar operator, navigator, flight mechanic and paramedic) plus four litters. The interior could easily be reconfigured for other roles including; medical evac(five crew members and twelve litters), personnel transport (four crew members plus ten seats), and cargo transport (three crew members and 568 cubic feet of cargo space), or a combination of all three. A large overhead hatch facilitated changing interiors or loading bulky cargo item, although it appears that this feature was rarely if ever used.
The Trumpeter kit comes in a large two part top open tray type box with nice artwork on top. Both parts of the box are corrugated cardboard. Inside the box is stuffed to the brim with sprues. Each sprue is individually bagged except for the identical sprues with the engine parts which are bagged together. There are 15 sprues molded in light gray and one molded in clear. Separate bags also contain some metal parts and some rubber parts. The clear parts along with the metal and rubber parts are contained in small partition at the end of the box. The box states the kit contains 380+ parts.
The clear parts are quite clear and have very little optical distortion. Areas to be painted are frosted. Escape hatches are provided as separate parts in case you want to open them up.
The decals look thin and opaque and are in register. They vary some in the amount of excess film. A fair amount of stencils are provided. There is a spelling error on the 'jack point' stencil with point being spelled 'piont'. The text on the smaller red circles is not readable. The decals provide markings for two aircraft, one in U.S.A.F. marking and the other a Taiwanese aircraft.
The instructions are a 16 page stapled booklet in the landscape format. The front page has general assembly instructions and decal application instructions as well as an icon chat. Page 2 and most of page 3 are for parts maps. The assembly instructions start on page 3 and continue through page 16 in 14 steps. Everything looks to be clear but there are not a lot of paint call outs on the interior. The exterior painting and marking guides are on a separate page printed in color on glossy paper. Each side cover one aircraft and each has a paint chart with generic names, and reference numbers for Mr. Hobby, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol paints if there is a match.
After Market Goodies
So far not much to report here, Eduard makes a mask set (EX405) but as of yet no PE. It would be nice to have a color Zoom if only for the instrument panel.
This is a large kit of a fairly large aircraft and as such I have not yet seen many built. It has a great level of detail and based on my experience with other Trumpeter kits should go together and fit together reasonably well. I have not read to much grousing concerning shape errors but one after market company (Ally Cat) did make a a replacement nose section so at least someone must have felt there was something there that could be improved. Most modelers should not have any issues with it but due to the parts count I'm not recommending it to beginners.
Links to kit build or reviews
HU-16 Albatross in Action by Robert D. Migliardi
Grumman Hu-16 Albatros by Steve Ginter