Friday, March 30, 2007
I took a backpack-full of my old cameras to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. I was surprised to find this old experimental XJL-1 amphibian. Only a few were made; while said to be a new design at the time by Grumman, the hull was clearly derived from a pre-WWII Grumman Duck.
I had the opportunity to fly in an orginal bi-wing Duck in 1959 in southern Colombia. I had travelled far up tributaries of the Amazon by river launch to visit a tribe known as the Matapie. When it came time to leave, I was facing another long river trip without a lot of enthusiasm, and when offered a chance to ride out in the Duck, I jumped at it. I rode down in the cargo compartment just over the large pontoon. I recall that I couldn't see much out of the square side window, and I shared the compartment with a traveling companion, a large turtle and some plastic bags full of water and tropical fish. We flew to Leticia on the Amazon where I was later able to catch a ride back to Bogotá.
The Duck was owned by an animal and tropical fish exporter named Mike Tsalikis. He used the plane to pick up the fish and animals from trappers who worked for him all over the upper Amazon. I heard some time later that one of the Duck's wing floats was damaged while landing in a river at a remote location, and the pilot had to taxi down-river over a hundred miles to get home. In Leticia, I also got a chance to see a couple of old war-surplus bombers that were used to transport the fish and animals to Miami, a B-17 and a B-29.
Some photos made with the pinhole camera at the Air & Space Museum are at the bottom of the second pinhole gallery page.