Letters: Mighty Seabird

Barry Schiff’s story on the Grumman HU–16B Albatross and his reflections on “A Bygone Era” had readers flying down memory lane.

January 17, 2014

Thanks for the article on the HU–16B—the “Goat” in Coast Guard lingo. Fresh out of flight training, I reported into Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on August 4, 1974 (Coast Guard Day). On August 6, I started my co-pilot checkout in Coast Guard tail number 7243, an HU–16E (longer wing). The Coast Guard had stopped water work because the cost of maintaining the fleet for an infrequent amphibious use was not cost effective. We flew the Albatross as a land airplane on fisheries patrols and medium- range search missions.

The pilots who flew the “Goat” at E City were mostly dual-qualified helicopter pilots with new fixed-wing pilots (like me) as their co-pilots. With the C–130 on the ramp as well, most of the fixed-wing drivers tried to avoid the Albatross. As a result, we flew the Albatross a lot like a helicopter—rarely getting above 500 feet. We made our way out to search areas below any overcast, skimming over eastern North Carolina’s flat terrain, and under the gunnery range airspace in Dare County.

The big radials made an incredible roar on takeoff with a power setting somewhere around 51 inches of manifold pressure, as I recall. We wore helmets. Leveling off early had the benefit of reducing the noise. The “Goat” had electrically controlled propellers—I noted the same on the B-model with its toggle switches to set rpm in the story. I took an early instrument check in the Albatross and found it to be incredibly stable on the gauges. My exposure to the Albatross, however, was brief—75 hours in two months. The Coast Guard retired the aircraft from Elizabeth City in October.

Chris Burns
AOPA 1083903
Hanover, Pennsylvania

Barry Schiff’s column, ‘Proficient Pilot: A Bygone Era,’ is yet another of his masterpieces that brings to life a world that many of us are too young to have known, but that still motivates us to fly today. Although the environment we fly in today is different, it is the nostalgia, lore, humor, and lessons learned from the past that makes flying so much more than just a hobby or day job. Hats off to Barry!

Greg Barnett
AOPA 1219961
Great Falls, Virginia

Wow, my heart skipped a beat when what should appear on the December cover, an updated Slobbering Albert! I was fortunate to ride around in the back of these wonderful birds. It was a great seabird and a lot of fun on fresh water; not so much on salt water.

Walt Carrier
AOPA 557743
Fenton, Michigan

Barry Schiff must have been writing for me this month. How I envied him in the Albatross. He must have been praying for some fresh water to set down on. I’ve had a major
love affair with amphibs since high school and college, when I was commuting weekends between school and work on the Spruce Goose to Avalon on Catalina Island, California (usually in the right seat). That left me with some funny stories of Goose experiences (and some not so funny).

It was all so much fun in a bygone era (“Proficient Pilot”). A trip to the airport for a happy, relaxing trip to New York—always dressed properly in a suit and tie, of course. Flying to Catalina and being invited to stand in the cockpit, or later in the Grumman Goose, circling low over the channel to watch the whale migration. Or taking a couple of hours off from work and running out to Airflight to just fly wherever. It is so sad that the young people of today will miss so much—not just in aviation, but in every facet of their lives.

As always, thank you Barry Schiff for your great writing, and thank you for bringing back a flood of memories.

Bruce Kerr
AOPA 5461370
Long Beach, California

Round the world in 25 days

I read the story of Mike Laver’s round-the-world trip with great interest. Two weeks ago, my husband and I completed a similarly momentous trip but on a bit smaller scale. We flew our almost-40-year-old Cessna 172 from Florida to Arizona and back. While the two Mikes’ adventure took 98.1 hours over 25 days, ours took 40.1 hours over nine (flying) days. We flew one-eighth of their miles (3,415 versus 26,568) at one-third of their speed (100 knots versus 273 knots). Laver flew in honor of his airplane’s fiftieth anniversary. We flew in order to deliver 10 young saguaro cacti back to their native desert. He has 38 years of flying experience; I have less than five. Like I said, a trip just like Mike’s! My conclusion: GA not only stands for general aviation, but also for great adventures.

Leslie Nixon
AOPA 6194377
Ormond Beach, Florida

Engine-out landings at night

I read Al Marsh’s story with interest. I also had the same experience myself—engine out at takeoff at night in a dense urban area. I walked away from it, I believe, because of my training with my very first instructor (nose down, the insurance company now owns the airplane). I was back flying within 10 days (in a rental; my airplane was totaled) and now own a Piper Aztec (I upgraded my rating also).  You really have little time to think; my engine-out was at about 300 feet. “Landing” the airplane wheels down is the most important. My first VFR instructor just beat it into me—forget about the impossible turn (I started one because my engine was stumbling, but committed after the stall light flicked). I also had quite a bit of experience with the AOPA legal plan, not for any sanctions against me, but to try and get the NTSB to put out an accurate “factual” report.

Jeff King
AOPA 6700502
Hillsdale, Michigan

Monocular pilot

Regarding the December article by Dr. Warren Silberman concerning certification of pilots with monocular vision (“Member News and Notes”), I recovered my first class medical certificate after I became a monocular pilot in 1973. It extended my airline and finally my corporate flying career for almost 40 additional years.

I was riding the ski chair several years ago in Vail, Colorado, and I was seated beside a former pilot for a large airline. He had lost an eye in an accident and it ended his career. I told him about my experience and that approximately 100 airline pilots were flying at the time with monocular vision. He became so excited I thought he was going to jump out of the chair. The instant we reached the top of the mountain he jumped out of the chair and was schussing straight down the mountain heading for his car so he could go see his medical examiner. I often wondered if he got his medical back and was able to continue his career.

Dale (Bud) Leppard
AOPA 711647
Morristown, New Jersey

We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email pilot@aopa.org. Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.