Monogram 1/72 HU-16B Albatross




£12.50 in 2000




Tim M Mansfield


A real oldie


The Albatross is the last and largest in a long line of amphibians by Grumman, it was originally developed as the XJR2F-1 Pelican as a transport, trainer and rescue aircraft for the US Navy – which first flew in 1947.  However pleased the US Navy was with the 2 prototypes it received - it lacked the funds for a production contract.  Fortunately the newly independent US Air Force was looking for just such an aircraft – to replace its OA-10 Catalinas, and did have the funds for (ultimately) 305 aircraft.  The USAF designated the aircraft the SA-16A Albatross.  The US Navy DID re-enter the story – starting delivery of  99 aircraft in 1949, with the US Coast Guard starting delivery of it 46 aircraft in 1952.

The SA-16B was a development intended to deliver “significant improvements in performance, with minimal outlay in costs”.  Changes consisted of an extended wing, with an extra 200 inches span, 18 inch extension to the fin, 12 inch extensions to the stabiliser, and other less noticeable modifications, were considered successful - although they did compromise the max speed and rate of climb figures. The first aircraft (and many others) was actually a conversion of an SA-16A, numbered 51-7200 (subject of this kit) – its maiden flight was 15 Jan 1956.  The longer wing consisted a parallel section immediately outboard the engines, and longer tips.  This compromised the previously straight trailing edge, and is faithfully reproduced in the kit. 241 conversions were completed for US forces and some new build aircraft.

There was a Canadian version, based on the HU-16B, with more powerful engines, - of which 21 were delivered.  Here visible differences consisted of bulged engine cowlings and a carburettor air-scoop (neither reproduced in the model), and square tipped props.

Another addition for any version of Albatross was the Triphibian kit.  This was ice-landing equipment, consisting of a hull skid and shock struts on the floats, permitting operations from frozen ice, as well as land or water.  The Canadian model incorporates the Triphibian modifications thanks to a Leading Edge conversion set.

Albatrosses served US forces until about mid-way through Vietnam – carrying out many daring rescues under fire. They also served numerous other foreign air-forces and now civil operators around the world.  A total of 459 aircraft were delivered.



My kit is dated 1999, and was bought and completed in early 2000 – but it shows evidence of a far more ancient pedigree. (Like about 1957-58. Ed)  It was one of Monogram’s recent releases with a free patch.

Moulded in dark grey, soft plastic, – the breakdown for this kit is typical for a kit of this nature, but the instructions don’t always use part numbers.  The model is covered in oversize rivets and, with the deformed crew figures, is reminiscent of an early Airfix bomber.  Interestingly it features retracting undercarriage, and contains parts for an inflatable raft and survivors – enabling a seaborne rescue diorama to be built.

Instructions lead you through 21 stages of construction, with various tips, paint and decal guides along the way.  Having studied these with some curiosity – I largely ignored them, preferring to follow the diagrams and paint the whole ship after construction.

The decal-sheet is a thing of beauty – with precise decals for a metal USAF version, and a white/red USCG.  I selected USAF as it looked easier – but have been able to borrow another example in Canadian colours for this review from an IPMS colleague.  Thanks to John Barnfield for the Canadian Albatross.

For those wanting an Albatross in their collection, this is the only kit in town – and delivers results commensurate with effort.

I was inspired to write about this under-rated model after watching a preserved example perform at the Seawings display, Southampton, England - on TV.


As I said, the instructions for this kit are over-complicated by the fact that they pre-date liquid cement and Clearfix (both of which considerably assisted construction).  The instructions also suggest removal of the rear-port door with a scalpel - for the rescue scene.

I ignored all that, and started with the cockpit.  This consists of 2 deformed pilots sitting on a cockpit floor – it’s horrendous!  I installed decent seats – spares from an Academy B-17E, plasticard bulkheads, instruments from a Revell Shackelton, centre console made from a Stuka canopy, scatch-built control columns and ceiling-mounted throttles.  It is just visible through the windscreen, (but not by photo) but gave me a great feeling of satisfaction.  Interior is painted with Inscribe Avacado, brown seats, masking-tape harnesses and black controls.

I ignored all the fuselage windows, installed the nose undercarriage leg, and assembled the fuselage halves.  These showed signs of not wanting to fit perfectly, so I selotaped the halves together tightly and left them to set overnight.  Most of the joins are knife-edges which didn’t require gap-filling, but the upper forward fuselage did require treatment. 

 Next came the wings, consisting of upper and lower halves on each side, and a centre section over the fuselage and engines (no moving ailerons here!).  These went together OK, but some work was required to fill and level the joins just outboard of the engines.  At this stage you’re supposed to install the main undercarriage so that it can fold and retract.  I was not very optimistic about this – just installing the upper parts. 

Wing marriage to fuselage was straightforward, resulting in well concealed lower joins – but gaps across the upper fuselage.  Time to treat all those gaps with liquid-paper.  Sanding down afterwards reduced the rivets, so I continued for the whole airframe.

 The only remaining airframe  prior to painting is the tailplane – which slots into the fin without any gap.

 I assembled the fuel-tanks and gathered all the remaining engine and undercarriage components prior to painting. 


The USAF version I selected is natural metal, with yellow wingtips.  I have one picture of a similar machine – showing a dull metal finish.  So I discarded any ideas of Humbrol 11, SNJ, Nissan Silver or kitchen-foil and bought an aerosol called Wheel Aluminium from Halfords.  

I stuffed the cockpit with damp tissue, and started spraying – the result is a dark metal colour reminiscent of an old saucepan – but representing a bird that lives around the sea.

The wingtips (and floats) were painted Humbrol 24 Yellow, with decal stripes for demarcation. All leading edges have black rubber de-icer boots.

Though these were beautifully defined, they didn’t stick very well – however my method of application over a blob of wet Klear did bond them down to the surface.  The only other marking is the huge anti-dazzle panel, which follows a panel-line  - so is quite easy to paint freehand.

Once all the decals were applied I gave the model an airbrush coat of acrylic matt varnish before finishing off. 


This consisted of fitting the rest of the undercarriage, windscreen, engines, radome and aerials – all straight forward but some bits are worth of comment.

The undercarriage is all painted Humbrol 11 Silver, with covers matching the rest of the airframe.  I wasn’t very optimistic about the moving joints – so I installed the whole lot and fixed it with liquid cement (so did John with his Canadian version!).  Tyres were painted the darkest gray I could find, before the wheels were fixed with a hot blade.

Engines were painted tyre grey – prior to spraying with the rest of the airframe.  This has had the effect of highlighting the engine detail.  Propellers were painted black with yellow tips and silver hubs.

I framed the windscreen with Humbrol 56 Aluminium prior to installing with Clearfix. This paint was a reasonable match to the rest of the airframe – so I used it to fill any remaining gaps.  Fuselage windows were finished with Clearfix. 


For the purposes of review completeness, I measure models to establish their accuracy, multiplying my measurements by 72 and comparing with the quoted dimensions. 

Span    408mm  x72= 29.376M           Quoted 29.46M           Difference -84mm

Length  264mm  x72= 19.008M           Quoted 19.15M           Difference -142mm

Height  112mm x72=  8.064M             Quoted 7.87M             Difference +194mm 

These figures were measured on a pile carpet – so anything within 300mm is fine by me!

Does it look like an Albatross – YES!

My only minor gripes are that the wings have a slight sag that I can’t see on photos of the real plane – we’ll put that down to full wing tanks, and the main-wheels look a little thin.


Crude, no real detail, requiring a little work to build a good example – this kit is disappointing by current standards, but it rewards any extra effort that it put into it.  Thankfully it’s fairly accurate – which is fortunate as it’s the only model we’re ever going to see of this sea wanderer.

Tim M Mansfield

October 2003


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