THE LOSS OF U.S. COAST GUARD UF-2G #1240
“The Blue Book says we’ve got to go out, but it doesn’t say a damn thing about having to come back…”
The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation developed the Albatross based on a late 1940s U.S. Navy requirement for a general purpose transport that could operate from land or water and, with skis, from snow and ice. The Albatross was a continuation of the Grumman line of amphibians, which was spawned in the 1930s and included the Duck, Goose, Widgeon, and Mallard. On October 24, 1947, the first Albatross prototype took to the air. During the aircraft’s production run, which stretched from September 1947 through May 1961, Grumman constructed 466 Albatross amphibians. Ultimately, the U.S. Coast Guard obtained a total of 91 Albatross. Grumman delivered the first Albatross, #1240, to the U.S Coast Guard from its Bethpage, Long Island factory on May 7, 1951.
WING SPAN: 80 feet
LENGTH: 60.6 feet
TOP SPEED: 240 mph at 7,600 feet
RANGE: 2,660 miles at 1,800 feet
POWERPLANT: Two Wright Cyclone R-1820-76A/B radial piston engines
WEIGHT: Empty – 22,883 pounds; Maximum at Takeoff – 35,700 pounds
The 91 Albatross delivered by Grumman would help form the backbone of the U.S. Coast Guard’s aviation arm for the next 25 years. The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics helped design the compartmentalized hull, which was rated to operate in 4.5 foot seas. However, the Albatross endured much worse conditions. In one instance, after successfully landing to rescue downed airmen in 16 foot seas and unable to take back off, the pilot proceeded to motor 98 miles back to base. For many years, the unofficial U.S. Coast Guard nickname for the amphibious aircraft was the “Goat.” Cumulatively, the dependable aircraft would log over 500,000 flight hours for the U.S. Coast Guard. On March 10, 1983, at 2:30 p.m., the last surviving operational example of a fixed-wing amphibious aircraft to be operated by the U.S. Coast Guard or any branch of the military was withdrawn from active service.
UF-2G Albatross #1240 was assigned to C.G.A.S. St. Petersburg. On the evening of March 5, 1967, the 40-foot yacht Flying Fish became disabled and began sinking, which prompted her captain to make a distress call. Lt. Clifford E. Hanna and a crew of five boarded UF-2G Albatross #1240 and flew north towards Carrabelle to assist the sinking vessel. Even though heavy fog blanketed the area, Lt. Hanna located the Flying Fish just before 9:00 P.M. The Albatross made a low pass to drop a dewatering pump to the sinking yacht. The pump was successfully dropped with near perfect precision, however, as the aircraft disappeared into the foggy night following the low-level pass, a loud noise cracked across the dark Gulf of Mexico.
The captain of the Flying Fish reported seeing an orange glow “like a camp fire” approximately two miles southeast of his position. The crash was believed to have occurred about 22 miles east of Apalachicola; 20 miles south-southeast of Dog Island Light; 8 miles from the Carrabelle Sea buoy. Over the next several days a small armada of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels combed the area. Numerous Coast Guard aircraft, as well as Navy aircraft using magnetic anomaly detectors, probed the Gulf of Mexico. The searchers were unable to find the aircraft, though they did find the bodies of pilot Lt. Hanna, copilot Lt. (J.G.) Shaw, and crewman Studstill. As Lt. Hanna was found tied to a float tank and had a pen flare gun with two expended cartridges in his flight suit, it was apparent that at least some of the crew survived the initial crash. The three remaining servicemen and the wreck of the UF-2G Albatross #1240 were never found.
FLIGHT CREW OF U.S. COAST GUARD UF-2G ALBATROSS #1240
Lieutenant Clifford E. Hanna (U.S. Coast Guard Aviator #1061)
Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Charles F. Shaw (U.S. Coast Guard Aviator #1199)
First Class Aviation Machinist Mate Ralph H. Studstill
First Class Aviation Electronics Technician Eckley M. Powlus, Jr.
Second Class Aviation Electronics Technician James B. Thompson
Third Class Aviation Electrician’s Mate Arthur L. Wilson
WRECK OF U.S. COAST GUARD UF-2G ALBATROSS #1240
In July 2006, A.U.E. divers investigated the wreck of an unidentified aircraft resting offshore Carrabelle. The site was dominated by the aircraft’s wing and two radial engines. Both engines had become dislodged from their mounts, though no trace of their propellers was observed. The nose was heavily damaged, and the cockpit was all but absent. The lower hull of the fuselage was largely collapsed, which complicated the initial identification as an amphibious aircraft. The aft portion of the fuselage was fractured, with the tail resting parallel to the wing and on its starboard side. The horizontal stabilizers appeared to be missing from the tail assembly. Based on the diagnostic features observed on the wreckage, the location of the site in relation to the historical account of the crash, the lack of other documented aviation accidents in the general area, and expert opinions from veteran Grumman Albatross mechanics and pilots, we conclude the previously unidentified aircraft wreck off Carrabelle is missing U.S. Coast Guard UF-2G Albatross #1240. The site has potential significance because the wreck represents the very first Grumman Albatross delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, there are only 11 Grumman Albatross representative of UF-2G (later designated HU-16E) #1240 currently flying.