In 1954, two years before Donald Duncan founded Duncan Aviation, a flying boat—also known as an HU-16 military air and sea rescue plane—rolled off the line. Refurbished in 1980 with new engines and reinforced wings among other mods, it was recertified as an Albatross (G-111) for its short-lived civilian life and then relocated to the Pinal Airpark boneyard in Arizona for the next 25 years.
“It was in sorry shape when I bought it from the desert in 2008; it had road runner nests in the wings,” says owner Joe Duke. “It had been certified to zero time in 1983, so the new engines and airframe had 26 hours—nearly all from the flight to Arizona.”
In April 2015, the 61-year-old amphibious aircraft landed at Duncan Aviation’s Lincoln, Nebraska, facility to get fitted with its new interior—or, more accurately, an interior.
“The Albatross was like factory new; it had no interior accommodations and no sound proofing. It’s an old military transport aircraft, and it was loud,” says Certification Coordinator Aaron Lane. “And because of the age of the aircraft, there was not a single person at Duncan Aviation who had ever worked on an Albatross.”
“It’s evident that everyone here at Duncan Aviation cares. The attention to detail is unmatched. Look at the quality of the cabinetry, and they were difficult to build.”
- Joe Duke, Owner
In addition to installing sound-dampening materials, the production team, following the plans of Joe’s designer, Bruce Shoemaker of SDesign.aero, put in numerous passenger accommodations (including two galleys, a lav, interior panels, LEDs, USB plugs, dome and task lighting, and new gaspers) and updated the cockpit with side ledges and a workstation.
As the Albatross garnered the Grand Champion Gold Lindy award for Seaplanes at the 2013 EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, expectations were pretty high for the new interior. Joe believes the new interior exceeds expectations. When taking in the workmanship on the quilted sound-dampening panels, he was impressed that the diamond-patterned seams among each of the panels lined up with one another. “It’s evident that everyone here at Duncan Aviation cares. The attention to detail is unmatched,” says Joe. Gesturing toward the galley, he adds, “Look at the quality of the cabinetry, and they were difficult to build.”
Our time-lapse video (www.DuncanAviation.aero/videos/albatross) captures the progression from the pristine but empty cabin and cockpit to the newly completed interior, designed to evoke the style and materials used in the period in which the Albatross was produced.
“It’s one thing to start thinking about a concept; thinking and hoping you’re doing the right thing,” says Joe. “And seeing it now? It’s as good as I’d hoped. I’m glad I brought it here, too. These team members are wonderful—everyone cares about every detail. [As a former Duncan Aviation employee,] Bruce knew, but I had not had any contact with Duncan Aviation prior to this. It’s been a positive experience, and I’m pleased with the outcome.”