Albatross unveiled at Biscarrosse

Former Italian Air Force HU-16A Albatross MM50-180 on display following restoration at the Musée de l’Hydraviation. DAVID HALFORD

At Biscarrosse, south-western France, the Musée de l’Hydraviation unveiled its recently restored Grumman HU-16A Albatross on 9 June as part of the weekend’s Rassemblement International d’Hydravions seaplane gathering and show.

The airframe was one of 13 surplus US Air Force HU-16As supplied to Italy under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. It was operated by the 15° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) as a search and rescue aircraft with serial MM50-180 and code 15-6.

The type was on AM strength between 1958 and 1979, having been introduced to replace obsolete CANT Z506s that had been in service since the war.

Stored for a time at Cuneo airport in Italy, the Albatross was about to be scrapped, so the Biscarrosse museum decided to acquire and restore it, before exhibiting the amphibian in USAF colours. On 2 July 2014, after six days on the road, a three-lorry convoy carrying the fuselage, wings and engines/floats arrived at Biscarrosse- Parentis airfield, down the lake from the museum. Restoration only started in 2016, the work being undertaken by a group of engineering apprentices for whom it was a training project. The end result is now the centrepiece of the museum’s main courtyard.

David Halford