The Ugly Duckling

A look back at a unique aircraft

There is a saying around MAF: “Planes change, but the mission stays the same.” And truly, MAF’s mission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth has not wavered since 1945. However, the airplanes used to complete this task have changed drastically throughout the years. A look back through the flightlogs reveals one airplane stands out: the Grumman Duck.

The “Duck” was designed in 1933 and was a military airplane used around the world throughout WWII. The Duck was a single-bay bi-wing amphibious plane. In simple terms, this odd-looking aircraft had one main float under the center of the plane and smaller floats under the lower wings. It was so strange-looking, it was coined by some as the “Ugly Duckling.”

The Ugly Duckling of MAF’s early fleet: a Grumman Duck. Photo from MAF archives.

In 1946, Wycliffe Bible Translators acquired a Grumman Duck and needed MAF’s first pilot, Betty Greene, to fly it to support their work in Peru. Betty shares about her experience flying the Duck over the Andes in the book Flying High:

“I was eager to begin my assignment and went out to see the Duck the next morning. That afternoon I met Marine Corps General Ross Powell, chief of the navy air mission of the United States in Peru. The Duck had been under his command. General Powell, a marine to the very core of his being, was opposed to a woman pilot flying the plane. He thought it absurd to think of my flying the ship at all, to say nothing of me crossing the Andes with it and navigating on treacherous tributaries of the Amazon River in the Peruvian rain forest.

Having served as a WASP I knew how to take initiative. The Lord blessed me with the ability to stay cool under pressure. After rehearsing all the procedures, I turned on the engine and warmed it up. The sound of the roar rejuvenated my sagging spirits. I took off alone and soon found that the awkward-looking Duck was easy to fly. By the time I came down for the landing I knew I would enjoy flying the plane.”

Betty is recognized as the first woman to fly over the Andes—a feat she accomplished in this unique airplane.

Betty Greene in Peru in 1946 with the Grumman Duck. Photo from MAF archives.

 

This story originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here:

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