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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Grumman G-44 Widgeon (including SCAN-30)

The early success of the Goose encouraged Grumman to pursue the development of a lower cost, scaled-down version, also aimed at private flyers. Christened the Widgeon, Grumman selected the six-cylinder in-line inverted piston engine that its Long Island neighbour Fairchild had developed to power its PT-19 primary trainer. In so doing, the company bucked the prevailing trend for radial engines, and, despite the aircraft being slightly under-powered, stuck with the Fairchild engine when production restarted for the civilian market after World War II.

In 1953, McKinnon-Hickman began marketing a conversion kit for the Widgeon, based on a more powerful, horizontally-opposed engine, and most survivors are in fact examples of this Super Widgeon conversion. Prior to this, the French company Société de Constructions Aéronavales (SCAN) had acquired a license to produce a lower-specification version of the Widgeon. The project was fraught with difficulty from the outset and problems over engine supply meant the entire batch was built before any of the engines had been received. The company ended up with a large stock of unsold airframes, most of which ended up in the United States. Nine SCAN-30s survive, something of an achievement considering they are notoriously difficult to maintain in the United States on account of the French manufacturer’s use of metric fittings throughout.

Among the other surviving Widgeons is a United States Navy J4F-2 modified by Edo Corporation to test the handling characteristics of different length-to-beam ratios of seaplane hulls. This particular aircraft ended up being used as a test-bed for a half-scale replica of the Martin XP5M-1 hull, and can now be found at Pima Air & Space Museum. The Widgeon remains popular, and a healthy market exists for the type.

First flight: 28 Jun 40 (c/n 1201, NX28633)

Production: 317, comprising 276 by Grumman at Bethpage, NY, and 41 by SCAN at La Rochelle, France

First delivery: Feb 41 (c/n 1202)

Last delivery: 1952

Variants: G-44 - initial 5-seat version for the civilian market, powered by 2 Ranger 6-440-C5 in-line pistons (44 built, including 12 for the Portuguese Navy);

G-44A - post-war civil version with improved hull and better cabin comfort (76 built);

J4F-1 - G-44 optimised for US Coast Guard use in coastal search and rescue role, some armed (25 built);

J4F-2 - G-44 for US Navy (131 built, of which 15 supplied to Fleet Air Arm for use in the Caribbean as Gosling I, renamed Widgeon I in 1944; survivors returned to the US Navy);

SCAN-30 - licence-built French version featuring non-anodised hull and lower quality cabling, powered by 2 Mathis 8G40 pistons (41 built, including a number as SCAN-30A with Salmson 8AS-00s, SCAN-30G with De Havilland Gipsy Queen IIs and SCAN-30L with Lycoming GO-435-C2s; first flight Jan 49).

Conversions: The most extensive conversion programme was the Super Widgeon, a McKinnon-Hickman conversion featuring Lycoming GS0-480-B1D flat-six pistons, modern avionics, improved passenger comfort, increased maximum take-off weight and, as an option, retractable floats (approx. 70 converted). More limited conversions, largely centred on re-engining, have been carried out by Dean H. Franklin Aviation Enterprises, Magnum (Lycoming TIO-540s), J. Ray McDermott Aviation, Tasman Empire Airways Ltd. (TEAL) (both Continental IO-470-D flat sixes), and Pacific Aircraft Engineering (Lycoming R-680E radials, known as the Gannett, some of which have been re-engined again).

Grumman Widgeon survivors.docx
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