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  #21  
Old 06-10-2016, 09:36 AM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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Part 2 continued.

Pics 10, 11 &12: All are attempts to show the colors, but in reality I must admit they don’t do it justice.



Pic 13: Becky and me, with old #7218 in the background as we try very hard not to break our faces with uncontrollable smiles.



By the first afternoon in Green Turtle Cay we had entered paradise, a land of brilliant white sand beaches, some as fine as talcum powder, all sloping off gently to the water’s edge where it begins to take on that characteristic Caribbean color that everyone tries so hard to describe; a sea that is absolutely colorless at the shoreline, then gradually turning hundreds of shades of greens and blues as it deepens to a saturated turquoise in the deep water. It’s truly a magic land.
During that first relaxing evening at the resort bar we met one of the local “experts” who knew of a perfect diving spot on the south end of Great Abaco, at a place called Sandy Point. Today, using the internet, a quick view of this ideal location using Google Earth (26° 1'52.57"N 77°24'0.89"W) will show a huge light colored sandy area that is way too shallow for an amphibian of our size to land in, but there were two darker colored channels right near the town just long enough to land and takeoff from. Our “expert” assured us that the dark color meant much deeper water that was deep enough to land on, plus the location provided easy access to the restaurant in town using our inflatable Zodiac. So we proceeded to land, only to run aground after slowing down enough for the hull to come down off plane. As it turned out, the dark color in the channel was dark green sea grass growing on a sandbar, making it look 25’ deep when in fact it was only about 3’ deep. Fortunately we had the ability to back up by reversing the props, and repeated attempts finally broke us free but it severely damaged the prop seal on the #2 engine. The decision was made to send #7218 inland with only a minimum crew of 2 on board because the prop might have to be feathered immediately after takeoff, with the remaining short flight done on one engine. The other 9 crew members were left behind to hitchhike home by whatever means possible (another long story).
The short flight up to the Marsh Harbor Airport was made without incident and our aircraft repair plan consisted of a call to Chalk’s Airline in Miami. They were flying a whole fleet of Grumman’s’ at that time and a short call with a credit card number was all it took to get a new prop flown over to our island location, complete with a crew to change it.
Pic 14: Just before takeoff the crew prepares for our first dive – all the scuba gear and Zodiac inflatable came out of the aft storage compartment, and back on deck.


Pic 15: Old #7218 back on land at the Marsh Harbour Airport with the #2 engine prop feathered.




With the aircraft grounded for a day, our gracious host arranged for a local fishing guide named Lincoln to take us on an island tour, complete with instructions on how to catch the local fish and harvest conch from the sea floor by free diving, all topped off with a magnificent shore lunch in his private island park. He explained that obtaining such a fine location was simply a matter of putting up his sign “LINCOLN PARK”, and when nobody took it down all the locals just agreed it was his.
Pics 16 to19: With a day off while the prop was being replaced, owner chartered a guide to show everyone how to catch fish and conch for a Bahamian style shore lunch.







Still have lots more to this story, and more pics, but the 12 pic limit is forcing me to start yet another page. Stay tuned it gets really interesting.

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  #22  
Old 06-11-2016, 05:52 AM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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And now, the rest of the story.

Two days later we decided to clear customs and head back to the USA, but not before making a quick stop just south of Bimini to dive on an old concrete ship that was sunk there before WWII. Just before takeoff, as we were loading the aircraft at its anchorage, we noticed a Coast Guard helicopter checking us out, first from a great circling distance, and then hovering right over us. We were unable to contact them on any of our radio frequencies, and hand signal produced little effect. They stayed in the area long enough to watch our takeoff, and then disappeared. We wouldn’t hear about this incident again for about a month.
After the takeoff we headed right for the dive are and located the old concrete hull resting in about 15’ of water (25°39'2.75"N 79°17'35.16"W). There isn’t much left of it, not because of weather wear but because it was used for aerial gunnery practice during the war, a fact that was confirmed to me about 5 years later by a man I once worked with who flew F4U Corsairs during the war. He was still proud of the fact that many of the holes I saw were from his bullets.
After a very uneventful dive we loaded up and flew about 5 miles north to the South Bimini airport to clear customs and file a flight plan for Key West FL. The airport was totally vacant on that hot afternoon and the local head of customs appeared to have enjoyed too many beers with his lunch. The more he looked at the Coast Guard airplane and its motley crew of civilians, the more he knew he was in deep trouble. In his mind, this was some form of test because the aircraft was obviously military and the crew couldn’t be anything but a bunch of rag-tag civilians. Either his superiors, or the entire US Government, were testing him to see how well he could handle a hijacked military aircraft incident. That realization went thru his foggy brain and 5 seconds later he jumped into action. Weapons were drawn, guards posted around the aircraft, and all of us placed under house arrest in the airport restaurant. It really did look like a Woody Allen film unfolding before our eyes, but as most of us know – you don’t argue with armed authorities.
After several hours of interrogations, and a full review of the aircraft’s civil registration documents, our host was piled into a jeep and taken to see the customs el-supremo himself in town. Fortunately he was in a more sober frame of mind, and we were all released after paying a healthy fine for causing so much trouble on a hot lazy afternoon.
Pics 20 – 24: Preparing for the concrete ship dive and flying to clear customs in Bimini.






Surviving house arrest in the islands gave all of us a desire to get back on firmer ground so we headed for Key West, and a whole new set of adventures that we’ll have to talk about at a later date.
There is only one last item concerning our Island Hopping exploits, and that is the public’s perception of our little adventure. All of us onboard were employees of a well-recognized WWII aviation museum, and therefore accustomed to flying around in old aircraft that were painted in their original military colors. We were also accustomed to people witnessing the flights appreciating them for what they were – a tribute to all the sacrifices made by our military in the past. But for some reason this trip was received a little differently. Everywhere we went people seemed to avoided contact with us, and showed very little interest in knowing more about the aircraft. Every time we take a B-25 Mitchel bomber or a P-51 Mustang fighter out on a tour, people are enthusiastically hungry for more information and crowd around the aircraft. But not this time. Our reception was always very cool, for instance, during a stop at a resort on one of the islands the marina was kind enough to let us moor the aircraft in deep water right in front of the docks, a very friendly gesture but everyone was very distant. After checking in at the resort office I walked back down to the docks and took a seat at the empty bar to see if I could find out what was happening in the local community. The bartender explained that it was much quieter than normal because of a huge drug bust in the harbor the night before. That had the locals a jittery enough, and then pointing over his shoulder at our aircraft he said in a hushed voice “and now the Coast Guard has showed up”. Odd, but no amount of talking would convince anyone that it was now a civilian aircraft being flown weekly on the airshow circuit.
After about another week we found ourselves back home at the museum, only to be greeted the next day by a full blown spring snowstorm that dumped so much snow on the aircraft that it tipped back on the tail section. Hardly a fitting end to a Caribbean cruise.
Pic 25: A snowy reception.


The story would be over there, were it not for a phone call from The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard in Washington, DC several weeks later. It seems our trip generated a number of comments and complaints from boaters in the Bahamas, demanding to know what the Coast Guard was up to with all the unusual activity. Why were the Coast Guard flying in civilian clothes, and why did the crew spend so much time fishing and partying (none of them knew that the flying crew for the day was prevented from joining in until they were off-duty the next day)? The Commandant explained that while it might be acceptable to fly old Army or Navy aircraft in their original colors at airshows, the same was definitely not true with our airplane because the Coast Guard did not report thru the normal military channels, but rather up to the Secretary of Transportation. In essence, what we did was the same as a civilian painting his car to look just like a Highway Patrol Cruiser, then roaring up the inter-state while turning on the red and blue light just for good measure.
He explained this was a courtesy call in advance of a letter from him demanding that we “cease and desist” immediately and repaint the aircraft to make sure it was not ever again mistaken for a Coast Guard plane, and that failing to do so would result in further legal action. Needless to say, the aircraft was repainted within days.
Well J.R., that’s a quick summary of our Grumman Albatross restoration and its entry into the airshow circuit. This was only the first of hundreds of flight hours in the old bird – there’s not enough time here to cover all of them. Old #7218 flew with us for about another 8 years before being retired again when the museum was eventually sold.

What's next? Bob will pick the next plane and write the story. I'll post it as soon as he gets it done.
Could it be:


Or:

Maybe:


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  #23  
Old 06-15-2016, 10:26 AM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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Bob dropped by yesterday and gave me something to look at; a company scrap book, I guess is what I'd call it. The book contains aviation magazines that have stories about the company he flew all over the world for finding and buying planes.
Since it is in a complicated looking binder I did try to take them apart and just shot pics of the issues and planes in them. The publications are; War Birds, Fly Past, Air Classics and Sport Aviation. Some of you might be familiar with them. Most were printed in the 1994-1998 era.

First pic is the emblem that had to be changed to make the Coast Guard happy on the Albatross. It was changed to the Amjet logo.



Back page of the company mag, Warbirds.



The crew of the Albatross:



Amjet's Fairey Gannet:









While Bob ponders the next plane to cover, I'll go shoot some more pics from the scrap book and post them here. Enjoy.
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  #24  
Old 06-15-2016, 01:11 PM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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Got a few more.

Strikemaster:









Avro Shackleton





And just some more eye candy.









Now I'll wait for his pick for the rest of the story.
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  #25  
Old 06-18-2016, 01:13 AM
Ohio Don Ohio Don is offline
 
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I've seen some ugly planes in my time but the Gannet has got to rank up there. Looks like someone hung a prop on the front of a Crusader. But I'd still go for a flight in it.
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  #26  
Old 06-18-2016, 05:16 AM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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From what I have read it carried some really heavy hitting ordnance. Like Nuke Depth charges. Knock, knock!! I hope my friend will write a report on this bird soon.
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  #27  
Old 06-18-2016, 08:48 AM
Ohio Don Ohio Don is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R.2009 View Post
From what I have read it carried some really heavy hitting ordnance. Like Nuke Depth charges. Knock, knock!! I hope my friend will write a report on this bird soon.
With those you don't have to worry about the Kaboom after the click. Otherwise known as you can run but you can't hide. I noticed in the one photo it only shows a single 4 bladed prop. Most others always show counter rotating props. That should save some operating costs but might hurt performance.
And now I know why it looked familiar, Pima County Air Museum has one.
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Last edited by Ohio Don; 06-18-2016 at 09:06 AM.
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  #28  
Old 06-18-2016, 11:02 AM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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I believe in other pics you can see there were counter rotating props. And I "think" two turbines. Or something like that. I'll have to wait on Bob to fill us in.

Here is another pic.

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Last edited by J.R.2009; 06-18-2016 at 11:05 AM.
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  #29  
Old 06-18-2016, 04:09 PM
J.R.2009 J.R.2009 is offline
 
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That the single 4 blade prop he is seeing in the picture is mounted on the right engine which drives the rear prop. At the time the photo was take the left engine had already been started with the large black powder cartridge starter and the front prop was turning, so it's just a blur and not visible in the photo. The next step in the start process is to slowly un-feather the rear prop which will then begin to turn due to the prop wash from the front blades. This starts the rear engine turning without expending another black powder cartridge, an item that hadn't been produced for about 15 years and were becoming scarce. When a supply of the cartridges eventually runs out you must somehow covert to one of the very rare engine sets that featured electric starters, or convert the cartridge turbine starter to run off of compressed nitrogen. This is very feasible, but the serious downside is that you must always have a start cart with about 8 fully charged cylinders standing by to restart. That’s OK if you are always flying off your own aircraft carrier, but not at all practical if as a civilian you just want to stop in at a small county airport for their annual pancake breakfast. Stop your engines there and you're in for the duration!

The picture Ohio-Don is looking at has a caption that says it was taken prior to the first engine start, but it is actually the first time the engine was started in about 15 years. You can definitely tell the front prop is turning because the man on the work stand has his head inside the cockpit so he and the pilot can converse over the engine/prop roar. I'm absolutely sure the engine is running because you should never intrude in another man's cockpit unless it is absolutely necessary - it's just "bad form old boy".

By the way, that man on the work stand is Lt. Cdr. David Moojen RN (retired), the last man to fly this exact aircraft when it was taken out of service in 1978 and flown to a deep storage base. I was able to locate him through the aircraft log books and the Royal Navy Yoevileton Museum. We then naturally invited him over to help us get the old girl running again. We also hosted another trip for him so he could fly in the Gannet when we took her to the annual EAA Oshkosh airshow a few months later. It was a very rare occasion because we were bringing an original Warbird, still in her original paint job, and with the original pilot on-board. Don't think that happens every day.
Bob




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  #30  
Old 06-19-2016, 01:29 AM
Patriot76 Patriot76 is offline
 
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This was a very interesting and unexpected thread......

Thanks to all who put it together and contributed, it was obviously a lot of work.
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