From the Cockpit Part 8: Grumman G-44 Widgeon

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part nine of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Flying another piece of aviation history, Rankin took to the skies this past week in a Grumman G-44 Widgeon. A multi-propeller amphibious aircraft, the G-44 first saw action in World War II as a coastal surveillance platform, before being modified for civilian use after hostilities concluded.

Largely used today for transport, coastal patrols or joyriding—anything that calls for flying low and slow—Rankin took the G-44 for a one-hour flight with the owner, multi-engine seaplane instructor Chester Lawson. Though not designed for aerobatics, Rankin found the aircraft surprisingly light on the controls and responsive to the touch, with none of the “mushy” response found in some other planes. He likens it to the difference between the handling in a bus versus a sports car, with one requiring extensive action and the other reacting to the slightest touch. But it’s not that one is better than the other, Rankin says, and highly responsive planes can be prone to over-controlling or overcorrecting by inexperienced pilots. “It’s all preference,” he says.

But perhaps more exciting than the flight itself was what Rankin found on the ground. With Lawson inviting Rankin to his house that morning, he assumed the pair would then drive to the airport. Instead, Rankin found himself in Spruce Creek, where more often than not the neighbor’s house comes complete with an attached airplane hangar. “Like an oversized garage,” says Rankin, the people step out of their house, into their planes and down the driveway. “Look out for cars and dogs and stuff,” he continues, “then taxi to the runway and just fly.” Like a kid in a candy store and with his head on a swivel, Rankin spots tri-planes and B-51 Mustangs and more. “And everywhere you look,” he says, “people together or walking their dogs together.” It had the community aspect and devotion to aviation he appreciates, but perhaps not the acreage. He’ll visit with his wife, but for now keep flying.

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Chester Lawson's Grumman G-44 Widgeon. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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