Australian company Amphibian Aerospace Industries (AAI) will begin a modernization programme for the G-111, a civilian version of the Grumman HU-16 Albatross, a flying boat from the 1950s and 1960s.
On December 8, 2021, the company announced a deal with the Northern Territory Government to start the production in Darwin.
“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,” Khoa Hoang, chairman of AAI, is quoted in company’s press release.
The company said the aircraft will have multiple uses, including passenger transport, search and rescue, coastal surveillance, and much more.
The HU-16 Albatross flying boat was designed by Grumman for the US military and manufactured between 1949-1961. Upon retirement in the 1980s, many aircraft were converted to a civilian variant, the G-111.
AAI intends to produce an upgraded variant of the G-111. According to the company, it will feature new digital avionics and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67F turboprop engines, which will replace the model’s original Wright R-1820-76A Cyclone 9 radial piston engine.
“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,” Hoang said.
AAI also revealed that it will collaborate with a number of Australia’s prominent aerospace firms. For example, Heat Treatment Australia and Nupress Group, which are both companies involved in manufacturing landing gear for the F-35 fighter jet, are set to work on landing gear for the G-111T.
AAI owns FAA type certificates for the HU-16 and the G-111, and has obtained the blueprints for the vehicle. It has been purchasing tools for the production and assembling a team of engineers.
In October 2021 the company also secured first place in an Australian contest for startups where it was awarded A$1 million ($713,000).
A previous plan called for the production facility to be located near Sydney, where AAI intended to convert a number of vintage G-111s to a new standard before commencing the production of the new Albatrosses. However, the location has moved, and the company shifted its focus from conversion to manufacturing.
According to Australian Aviation, AAI plans to receive a certificate of Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority by 2023, and start serial production in 2025.