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Albatross flying boat returns and will be built in NT

written by Adam Thorn | December 13, 2021

A US Navy Grumman HU-16. (Dylan Agbagni, WikiCommons)

A new version of the legendary Albatross flying boat will be built in Darwin, featuring digital avionics and enhanced turboprop engines from Pratt & Whitney.

Manufacturers Amphibian Aerospace Industries (AAI) said the new generation G-111T is an “incredible aircraft of great and practical use to humanity” because of its huge variety of uses, including search and rescue, freight and coastal surveillance.

Albatross seaplanes were originally manufactured between 1947 and 1961 and used by the US military in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

AAI plans to have the aircraft CASA-certified within 18 months and begin production by 2025.

The business’ chairman, Khoa Hoang, said, “It’s a long time since sovereign aircraft manufacturing on this scale has been considered viable in Australia, but the G-111T Albatross has one of the greatest business cases in aircraft manufacturing making it ideal to be manufactured locally and perfect to be made right here in the Northern Territory.

“Today’s announcement is just the beginning as we are already working on next-generation technologies to produce new variants such as the zero emissions-hybrid powered Albatross and even a stretched 44 seat variant.”

AAI acquired the Albatross type certificate several years ago, and over that time, developed a leading team to support the development of an adjacent manufacturing capability.

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The final deal was said to have been a result of years of coordination between AAI and the NT government.

“We have also uncovered a lot of smart people with incredible expertise here in our own country,” Hoang said.

“Companies like Heat Treatment Australia and Nupress Group which are involved in making the landing gear for the F35 Fighter and we have earmarked them to make the Albatross landing gear.

An illustration showing what the next-generation Albatross will look like.

“Also, our own subsidiary 5 Rings Aerospace working with the Australian Stroke Alliance and RMIT University to design an aeromedical installation.

“The global market for the Albatross G-111T is enormous and it holds a monopoly in its class. It doesn’t compete with larger passenger aircraft, instead it compliments them which is why it’s the perfect platform to build in Australia and rekindle our sovereign aircraft manufacturing capability.”

Comments (29)

  • Glen Towler.

    says:

    I wonder is there much of a market for seaplanes? If there was then companies like Airbus and Boeing would be building them

    • Anthony

      says:

      There’s probably a niche market. Seaplanes are still used from Vancouver to downtown Victoria BC. The novelty value would keep a few in business!!

    • Dave King

      says:

      Of course there is a need for seaplanes and floatplanes. There are many places with lots of islands close by. Those places have those planes. I live near Vancouver, Canada. Lots of islands around here abd coastal towns, are all services by floatplanes. Then another need is planes for fire fighting. Company here in Abbotsford, Conair, builds fire fighting aircraft. They have float planes, so they can skim lakes, then deliver the water to the fire!!!

    • kevin hall

      says:

      well i am sure there will be a demand for small seaplanes, with sea levels on the up ,and with there ability to land on sea and land, i am sure it will be a winner all round, so we wish them well, with this venture

  • JACK CAIRNS

    says:

    HI FOLKS – IT IS NOT A SEAPLANE – IT IS AN AMPHIBIOUS FLYING BOAT – A FLYING BOAT HAS A BOAT SHAPED HULL WHICH CAN LAND AND FLOAT IN THE WATER – A SEAPLANE DOES NOT , IT IS A LANDPLANE WHICH DOES NOT HAVE A FLOATABLE HULL- IT SITS UP ABOVE THE WATER ON REMOTE FLOATS – J.C. – EX SHORTS SUNDERLAND .

    • Marshall Seal

      says:

      You can ditch the all caps. Does the FAA have a different rating for flying boats and float planes? They are both seaplanes. Float planes and flying boats are seaplanes. The Albatross is a flying boat, a seaplane. Happy Wright brothers day.

    • bruce hinds

      says:

      Actually Jack, you are partially correct.
      A Seaplane can be a flying boat or a floatplane(land plane with floats hung underneath). Either version can be amphibious. Seaplane is the general term.
      Bruce Hinds,
      Former Director at SPA and VP Washington Seaplane Pilots Association,

  • Eric

    says:

    These are ‘”Flying Boats” not “Seaplanes”, which land on pontoons. ‘”Flying Boats” are supported on the water by their floating hulls.

  • JOHN T BAUGH, III

    says:

    The Albatross is the best of all the flying boats of that era. It has a very tough hull and can handle more wave heigth than others. It is cavernous and can handle tons of cargo or people. It has fuel for days. Avgas has become a problem in some parts of the world and a turbo prop conversion will be ideal. There are many airframes available worldwide. The Albatross does many things well. The only knock is the old radial engines, lack of avgas, AD’s on the props , etc. The Turboprop conversion will erase all of it’s weaknesses. It also is fast and long ranged for a flying boat.

  • John copinger

    says:

    Big companies like Airbus and Boeing wouldn’t undertake a good project like this because they are run by bean counters; if somebody in the company wants to start a new project he has to convince the bean counters that the project will provide X million dollars profit, otherwise it’s out of the question. It would have to be a real tough Aussie to undertake such a project. I wish them every success.

  • Japan, China snd Russia are involved in developing modern Amphibians, so there is definitely a future. Even the USAF is looking at a floatplane-enabled C-130 Hercules.

  • John

    says:

    They are all seaplanes, one is a flying boat the other is a float plane!

  • Erik

    says:

    The Catalina had floats that folded out to become wing tips – this may reduce drag a little, BUT , the elevator may be too close to propellor slip stream! The Nomad had a problem of fatigue because of this!

  • Milton Miller

    says:

    Paspaley Pearls maintain a fleet of “flying boats” (Mallards) in Darwin to service its very extensive pearl farms in the Kimberlies .
    Regards
    Milton Miller

  • Jon

    says:

    The US Navy should buy a few of these (made in the NT of course!) In five years we’ll probably need planes in that part of the world that can land on water and has 3,000 km range.

  • Heto Puka

    says:

    Will be watching this project with keen interests as this is the perfect solution for the Tokelau Islands 🙏

  • Ghislain Boivin

    says:

    Fantastic ideas which is a follow up of a former project to reengine the Albatross with 2 GarrettTPE turboprop in the 1990″s .
    A Forest Fire Fighter version was also considered. Too bad that it did not workout.

  • Julianne

    says:

    Isn’t this aircraft much like the Pan American Flying Boats years ago?

  • P Mac

    says:

    What an exciting idea! And, to see that they want to build it in Darwin is even better! The NT can use the new jobs this can create. And, Airbus and Boeing really can’t devote resources to what is essentially a niche market. Hooray

  • Kurt Miller

    says:

    Grumman Albatross ……big daddy to the Grumman Mallard. Operated the Mallard out of Vancouver airport, never Vancouver Harbour, for 5 yrs. Marvellous airplane, however, this airplane is not suitable for Vancouver harbour and Victoria Harbour operations. These flying boats can’t operate in rough water. Also Victoria, BC, HARBOUR is too small. These boats are relatively high speed needing lots of water room.

  • Lars Opland

    says:

    Grumman built FOUR of the most successful flying boat designs still in service around the globe: Widgeon, Goose, Mallard & Albatross. The Albatross is the biggest of them, & has been successful in several duties beyond it’s original designed maritime patrol job. Somebody above mentions that there are many “airframes still available”, implying rebuilds only as with modern DC-3/C-47 developments. Would there be any new construction?

  • Driving Rain

    says:

    In a utility configuration it could probably lift close to 12 thousand pounds or 5400 kilos. With the long wing and a Field Aviation tank and gate system it could be a pretty good aerial firefighter.
    In the Maldives there is a fleet of 57 Dehaviland Twin Otters all mounted on straight Whipline floats with no amphibious capabilities at all 100% seaplane. If they build a version of the G111 without amphibious gear it would super light and cost way less carry more and go considerably faster than the Twin Otter.

  • Gilbert S Llanto

    says:

    The Phil, where our Air Force used to operate 6 of the radial Albatross, could be a market for 20-30 copies of the Albatross n we are excited of the new A. Used to fly as co- pilot for a few times on this-a very exciting air assets for the 7,001 Islands in the Phil

  • John Clarke

    says:

    If the experience of Canadair is anything to go by when they converted the very similar radial engined CL215 to turbine power, the Albatross will need additional aerodynamic stability to make up for the loss of gyroscopic forces from the piston engines. Originally the CL215T (aka CL415) did not have the tail fins or wing extensions found to be required but was just too unstable.

  • John Clarke

    says:

    If Canadair’s experience when converting the CL215 Waterbomber to turbine power is anything to go on, the Albatross will need considerable additional aerodynamic stability enhancements as the gyrostabilization from the Radial engines is lost. I note that no such additional fins or wing extensions are shown on the proposed modification.

  • Roberto Janczura

    says:

    I flew FAB (Brazilian Air force) Catalina’s. It was usefull along our rain forest rivers like Amazonas river. Brazil and other countries have a lack in this kind of “tool” to reach remote and roadless sites. Welcome back seaplanes, floatplanes or anphibious planes!

  • Geoffrey Farrance

    says:

    First Australia is an island continent with over 10,000Km of coastline, plus hundreds of islands. So a amphibian is a natural choice for the role it fills. Where they get the air frames from and their condition will be a factor in the success of the project.
    The conversion to turboprop is not an onerous one, but the change in gyrostabilisation will need careful assessment. That there are no new build aircraft of that size is a plus and a probable market worldwide.
    I wish them luck. to see a vintage aircraft in the sky’s will cheer a lot of aviation people, me included.

  • Jim Kedish

    says:

    As an American Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic with an Inspection Authorization who has Supervised Recertification on PBY5A Vultee and HU16 Albatross aircraft. Let me give you a little assistance. A seaplane is a boat hill aircraft without landing gear. You need a cradle to get it out of the water. PBY’s were initially produced this way. They were later equipped with retractable landing gear. Hence they became an amphibian. The Albatross was always an amphibian.
    This is one of the greatest aircraft ever built. Better in heavy seas due to it deeper narrower hull than a PBY. I have flown both. The wing floats retract on a PBY, they are fixed on an Albatross. This allows the Albatross to use them as auxiliary fuel tanks. A difficult issues with retractable floats. All in all the HU16 is a better aircraft or the US would not have ceased PBY construction.
    I am glad to see someone recognizes the unique role this aircraft can provide to any country. In search and rescue it is unparalleled. Much more than the role of Caribbean motor the old fleet is used for.

  • Jim

    says:

    In reference to Grumman Seaplanes. From the Widgeon to the Albatross all were designed for different purposes. Wigeon and Goose for utility in remote areas. Mallard for executive transport for weekend getaways. Albatross for Military transport, Search and Rescue in a hostile environment. Being familiar with the airframes I can tell you there are very significant differences in how they were constructed. The Albatross has many redundant features not found in its lessor brothers. It is a very strong aircraft. Has nose gear doors that are designed to be forced closed by the water on landing. Unlike like the PBY doors that can open resulting in the nose snapping off and end up tucked under the wing.
    I don’t believe converting this aircraft to turboprop would require many changes to its airframe. Very different wing profile than the Canadair. As they say built like like a brick …house.

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