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Grumman Albatross search

Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:58 am

I have always had a problem with (i.e. personal bias against) the fact that every single civilian owned Grumman Albatross in the US (and probably elsewhere too) is registered using some form of a supposedly former military serial number for its official identification. I have issue with that because first of all, 14 CFR 45.13(a) specifies that all civilian registered aircraft (which includes ex-military "warbirds") are supposed to be identified using the OEM (i.e. "builder's") serial number.

On top of that and for further clarification, FAA Advisory Circulars AC 21-12c and AC 21-13, which pertain to the application for and issuance of all certificates of airworthiness and the civilian certification of surplus military aircraft respectively, both also specify that if they exist, civilian OEM model and serial numbers should be used for purposes of all official identification such as airworthiness certification and registration. Those same Advisory Circulars go on to say that former military model and serial numbers may be included off to the right in parentheses if desired, but they are not required.

In the case of the Grumman Albatross, the model (i.e. design number) G-64 was never certified or approved by the civil aviation authority (i.e. CAA and later the FAA) as were for relevant examples the models G-21A (military OA-9 and JRF series) and G-44 (USN and USCG J4F series.) Nonetheless, Grumman did issue its own OEM serial numbers for each and every Albatross ever built and they ranged from G-1 to G-464 (not including the two experimental and pre-production prototypes.) Therefore, according to the aforementioned references, every civilian-owned and registered Grumman Albatross should be officially identified and registered using those Grumman OEM serial numbers as applicable and NOT any former military serial numbers.

After all, the Grumman OEM serial numbers never changed whereas the military serial numbers changed every time a particular aircraft was transferred from one branch of the service to another. Because of that, each of them has only one Grumman OEM serial number (G-1 through G-464) but in many cases, the same aircraft had several different military serials; instead of guessing which one might be most appropriate, the regs and official FAA supplementary references are explicitly clear on the matter - even if history and actual practice in the "real world" are not.

In any case, this situation has motivated me to expand my personal database for the histories and identifications of every Grumman Albatross and to try to reconcile it with the serial numbers listed under the various FAA type certificates which cover them now (most of which of essentially just "provisional" type certificates issued by the FAA to cover only specific former military aircraft for which civilian owners have submitted their own maintenance and other support documentation to be accepted by the FAA - as opposed to the full type certification and approval that was granted under Part 25 to those 13 specific Albatrosses that were rebuilt and re-certified as models G-111 under TC A22SO.

Type Certificate A33SO on the other hand is one of the provisional or limited TC's that covers specific former military Albatrosses that otherwise do not have any independent civilian certification - but it seems rife with gross errors. Under Section I for the model HU-16A, which was nominally the USAF short-wing variant, most of the serial numbers listed there are actually US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial or "Bu." numbers! Similarly, 75% of the serial numbers listed under Section III for the HU-16D US Navy long-wing variant are actually US Coast Guard serial numbers - and 33% of the serial numbers under Section IV for the HU-16E USCG long-wing variant are actually US Navy Bu. numbers once again!

Worse still, under Section II for the USAF long-wing HU-16B variants, there are several serial numbers which do not obviously correspond to any of the known previous military (or Grumman) serial number formats. For example, in addition to several USN and USCG serials, Section II includes serial numbers 0126, 9099, 51-7195A, 99-7213, all of which could be corrupted former military serials (that's assuming that 0126 is actually supposed to be former USCG serial number 1026) but worst of all is serial number "86B" for which I do not have a clue as to what it actually should be.

(So it took me a little while, but I did eventually get to the subject of one particular warbird...)

According to the FAA Aircraft Registration database online, Grumman Albatross serial number "86B" was registered up until August 6, 2009 as N123RK to SEA & AIR ADVENTURES LLC, a Wilmington, DE registered corporation (meaning that they actually could have been located just about anywhere in the US. So far, there were no obvious ties to any of the Grumman Albatrosses listed on the Warbird Registry Albatross page (http://www.warbirdregistry.org/albatrossregistry/albatrossregistry.html) and searches using the provided Google-powered search engine using the parameters "86B" and "SEA & AIR ADVENTURES LLC" turned up nada.

Any constructive suggestions?
Last edited by Rajay on Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Grumman Albatross search

Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:09 pm

Ah well, although it is still a mystery as to why this Albatross (N123RK) was identified as serial number "86B" at least I have now otherwise identified it.

Some further research online and digging through my own records and accumulated photos showed that N123RK registered to SEA & AIR ADVENTURES LLC was previously registered as N113LA to Sukonu Air in West Palm Beach, FL. It was the (IMHO) "ugly" brown and tan Albatross with "Katanga" stencilled on the side. Off the top of my head, I seem to recall that it was seriously damaged in a Hurricane (maybe in 2004) that also collapsed the Mirabella Aviation hangar in Ft. Pierce.

Once again according to my records, it was actually a long-wing USAF variant (i.e. an HU-16B) but its USAF serial number was 51-7169 (which does not seem to be included in the Albatross "warbird" records here: http://www.warbirdregistry.org/albatrossregistry/albatrossregistry.html) and more importantly which should have been identified by its Grumman OEM serial number - G-219.

So from where or how did they come up with "86B" for a serial number for its civilian registration?

Re: Grumman Albatross search

Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:06 am

Answer: "86B" was actually it's Grumman in-house project number for its conversion for the USAF from a short-wing SA-16A (Grumman design/model no. G-64) to a long-wing SA-16B (post-1962 re-designated as an HU-16B, aka a Grumman design no. G-111*) and it was the 86th such project carried out for the Air Force.

*This was the original use of that design/model no. by Grumman and not to be confused with the later civilian model G-111 aircraft converted by Grumman in the late 1970's & early 1980's and officially re-certified to FAR Part 25 Transport Category standards under FAA TCDS no. A22SO. Many of the aircraft so converted were actually originally built as Canadian (i.e. RCAF) model CSR-110 and JMSDF model UF-2 aircraft and were not actually former USAF aircraft at all. Clear as mud, right?
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