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Grumman G-21 Goose


John Pletcher's JRF-5 N703 being put through its paces at Lake Hood, Alaska, in May 2022 (Ian Atkinson)

Design of the Grumman Goose began in 1936 following a commission from a group of wealthy Long Island residents, who wanted “amphibian air yachts” in which to undertake their daily commutes into and out of Manhattan. The resulting aircraft was Grumman’s first monoplane, its first twin-engine design and its first commercial aircraft, although ultimately the type was produced in greatest numbers for the United States Navy, United States Army Air Force and the Allies. The Goose had a relatively short-lived career with the US forces, but found a post-war niche with smaller operators in the Caribbean and in parts of the United States. Following its earlier experience on the Super Widgeon programme, the Oregon-based McKinnon Enterprises began converting Gooses in 1958 and, in 1978 under the name McKinnon-Viking Enterprises, began offering the definitive G-21G Turbo Goose. Antilles Seaplanes was established in 2000 with ambitious plans to re-open Goose production acquiring both McKinnon and Dean Franklin’s extensive stock of Goose parts. The ‘Super Goose’ was to have been based on the G-21G (the company used N77AQ as their demonstrator) but, by 2010, the company was reported to be in financial difficulties and, six years later, the owner was successfully sued for $3m by his former business partner. Wilderness Seaplanes, a subsidiary of Pacific Coastal Airlines, continues to operate the Goose commercially, using the type link remote British Columbian coastal communities with its Port Hardy hub.


First flight: 29 May 37 (c/n 1001, NX16910)

Production: 345, at Bethpage, NY.

First delivery: 3 Jul 37, to Wilton Lloyd-Smith and Marshall Field III (c/n 1001, NC16910)

Last delivery: Oct 45, to US Navy

Variants: G-21 - initial version with fixed floats, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. SB radials, with accommodation for up to 6 passengers (but typically fitted out for 2-3 in a luxury cabin), (12 built);

G-21A - G-21 with Wasp Jr. SB-2s and increased gross weight (30 built);

G-21B - armed coastal patrol seaplane for the Portuguese Navy (12 built);

XJ3F-1 (G-26) - prototype 8-seat utility amphibian for the U.S Navy, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R-985-48 Wasp radials (1 built);

JRF-1 (G-38) - light transport version for US Navy, fitted with 7 seats (5 built);

JRF-1A - JRF-1 equipped with target towing equipment and camera hatch (5 built);

JRF-2 (G-39) - JRF-1 optimised for US Coast Guard, with removable passenger seats to allow the carriage of stretchers (7 built);

JRF-3 - JRF-2 equipped for cold weather operations (3 built);

JRF-4 (G-39) - JRF-1A with capability for carrying bombs or depth charges, powered by R-985-50s (10 built);

JRF-5 (G-38) - definitive production version for US Navy, based on JRF-4 but with cold weather enhancements used on JRF-3 and R-985-AN-6 engines (185 built, of which 5 transferred to the US Coast Guard as JRF-5G and 25 transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and the Fleet Air Arm as Goose I);

JRF-6B (Goose IA) - lease-lend navigator training version for Fleet Air Arm (44 built);

OA-9 - air-sea rescue version for the US Army Air Force (31 built).

Conversions include: G-21C - McKinnon Enterprises conversion featuring extended bow, retractable floats and 4 Lycoming GSO-480-B26B flat six engines (2 converted and allocated c/ns 1201 and 1202; 1201 further modified with bow extension allowing an additional 4 passengers, as G-21D and allocated c/n 1251);

G-21E - McKinnon conversion featuring 2 PT6A-20 or -27 turboprops, initially also designated G-21C (3 converted, c/ns 1203, 1204 and 1211);

G-21F - McKinnon conversion for Fish & Wildlife Service with Garrett TPE-331 tubroprops (1 converted at Lake Hood, AK and allocated c/n 1240. Confusingly, this conversion was formally certificated as G-21G);

G-21G - McKinnon conversion based on G-21E but with heavier gross weight (2 converted, c/n 1205 and 1226);

K-16 – JRF-5 extensively modified by Kaman at Bloomfield, CT, for tilt-wing research and fitted with General Electric YT58 turboshaft engines (1 converted, unflown as static trials suggested the aircraft was unsafe for flight).


Grumman Goose survivors
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