Grumman JF Duck

by Jack McKillop

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

See Grumman F3F.


The Columbia Aircraft Corporation

The Columbia Aircraft Corporation was founded in December 1927 in Hempstead, Long Island, New York. Initially, the company’s name was Columbia Air Liners Incorporated. By 1941, the firm's title was changed and the factory was located at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York. Beginning in 1941, the U.S. Navy wanted Grumman to concentrate on building fighter aircraft and had the construction of the J2F-6 to Columbia which produced 330 of them. These aircraft should have been designated JL-1 but for some reason, they retained the Grumman designation.

In June 1939, Grumman began work on a monoplane follow-up aircraft to the J2F however, the war started and Grumman was working on the F4F, XF5F and F6F. In 1943, Grumman passed the design of the monoplane to Columbia and two prototypes, XJL-1s, were manufactured. The first flight was on 25 October 1946. The two aircraft were tested by the Navy at the Naval Air Test Center, Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland and then stored at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. The two were sold in 1959.

In 1946, Columbia Aircraft Corporation was acquired by Commonwealth Aircraft Company which ceased production of aircraft in March 1947.


The J2F were an all-metal, single-engine, general utility biplane amphibian that was used for photographic reconnaissance, ambulance, target-towing, rescue, etc. The wings were equal span with four ailerons all of which were fabric covered while the fuselage and horizontal and vertical stabilizers where all-metal with the rudder and elevators being fabric covered. The monocoque central float housed the retractable landing gear with the wheels retracting into recesses in the float. Stabilizer floats were mounted beneath each lower wing. The Duck was classified as a "single bay" biplane, meaning there was only a single set of struts outboard of the fuselage and a single set of bracing wires between the upper and lower wings on each side.

Production History

J2F-1: The J2F was a development of the JF with a more powerful engine, the 750-horsepower Wright R-1820-20 nine-cylinder, single row, air-cooled radial engine driving a three-blade propeller and a short chord engine cowling. The aircraft was again equipped with a tail hook for operations from an aircraft carrier  and the ability to carry a heavier bomb load. It was also fitted with smoke laying and target towing equipment and provisions for photographic reconnaissance cameras. The lower passenger compartment was modified to allow a stretcher when performing ambulance duties. The only other change was extending the main float 1-foot (30-centimeters) otherwise, the fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were the same as the JF-1, i.e., it had provisions for a 0.30-caliber (7.62-mm) machine gun in the aft cockpit and

The J2F series was first ordered in March 1936 and the first flight was made on 3 April and delivered to the Navy at Naval Air Station (NAS) Anacostia, District of Columbia the same day. A total of 29 J2F-1s were built and were delivered between January and June 1937.

J2F-1A: The first J2F-1 was kept at NAS Anacostia for experiments. The J2F-1 had full span flaps on the lower wing and one of the experiments had full span flaps on both upper and lower wings. This aircraft may have been unofficially designated J2F-1A while undergoing these tests.

J2F-2: During 1938, the Navy ordered 30 aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps. These aircraft were powered by a more powerful engine, the 790-horsepower Wright R-1820-30 nine-cylinder, single row, air-cooled radial engine driving a two position adjustable pitch Hamilton Standard propeller. Armament was increased to two 0.30-caliber (7.62-mm) machine guns, one fixed in the engine cowling and one flexible in the rear cockpit. These aircraft were delivered between June and November 1938.

J2F-2A: During 1939 and 1940, nine J2F-2s were modified for use by Marine Scouting Squadron Three (VMS-3) based at Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas Island, U.S. Virgin Islands. These aircraft had two 0.30-caliber (7.62 mm) in the rear cockpit and two bomb racks beneath each wing.

J2F-3: The 20 unarmed J2F-3s were ordered in January 1939 as VIP aircraft for U.S. Naval Attaches and the Commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy. These aircraft were essentially J2F-2s with plush interiors and painted dark blue and silver. These were powered by the 790-horsepower Wright R-1820-36 nine-cylinder, single row, air-cooled radial engine driving a three-bladed constant speed propeller.

J2F-4: Production of this version of the Duck began in September 1939. A total of 32 aircraft were ordered. These were essentially a J2F-3 with minor modifications in cockpit instrumentation and engine operation. The last aircraft was delivered in June 1940.

J2F-5: This was the last Duck built by Grumman; 144 were delivered between July 1941 and March 1942. These aircraft were powered by the 950-horsepower Wright R-1820-50 nine-cylinder, single row, air-cooled radial engine housed in a broad chord cowling driving a three blade propeller. Stronger bomb racks were installed to accommodate the Mark 17 depth bomb, weighing 325 pounds (147 kilograms), filled with TNT and having a hydrostatic fuse that  could be set for different depth. The flexible 0.30-caliber (7.62-mm) machine gun in the rear cockpit was the standard armament.

J2F-6: The 330 J2F-6s were built by The Columbia Aircraft Corporation at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York. Production ceased in August 1945 when the war ended and contracts were cancelled. This Duck was essentially a J2F-5 with a more powerful engine, the 1,050-horsepower Wright R-1820-54 nine-cylinder, single row, air-cooled radial engine.

Operational History

The first J2F-1 was delivered to the Navy in January 1937 and by June of that year, the J2Fs had replaced the JFs in the Utility Units of the five aircraft carriers in commission, i.e., USS Enterprise (CV-6), Lexington (CV-2), Ranger (CV-4), Saratoga (CV-3) and Yorktown (CV-5). Other units equipped with these aircraft were Utility Squadron Two Base Force (VJ-2F) at NAS San Diego, California; the Ship Unit in the seaplane tender USS Wright (AV-1); Fleet Air Bases at Coco Solo, Canal Zone and Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii; Experimental Squadron Two of the First Naval District (VX-2D1) at the Torpedo Station in Newport, Virginia; VX-5D5 at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia; and Training Squadron Eight in the Fifth Naval District (VN-8D5) at the U.S. Naval Academy.

In July 1937, only one Marine squadron was equipped with J2F-1s, Marine Utility Squadron One (VMJ-1), Aircraft One, Quantico, Virginia.

As a result of the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, U.S. President D. Roosevelt immediately declared the United States’ neutrality. On 4 September, the USN established a Neutrality Patrol which was ordered to track and report the movements of any warlike operations of belligerents in the waters of the western hemisphere. Marine Scouting Squadron Three (VMJ-3) at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island, U.S. Virgin Islands was part of the this patrol and were equipped with nine J2F-2s and one JF-1 in January 1939. The J2F-2s were replaced by J2F-2As by January 1940.

The Navy’s inventory of aircraft on 31 December 1941 showed 168 J2Fs on the books, 23 J2F-1s, 19 J2F-2s, 9 J2F-2As, 17 J2F-3s, 32 J2F-4s and 68 J2F-5s.

In 1942, one J2F-5 was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces and redesignated OA-12-GR for evaluation but none were acquired during the war.

By the end of World War II, none of the J2Fs were serving aboard combat ships but rather they served in seaplane tenders, utility squadrons, carrier aircraft service units (CASUs), anti-submarine warfare training units and Aviation, Construction, Ordnance, Repair, Navy (ACORN) units.

In February 1943, the U.S. Coast Guard had at least three J2Fs, a J2F-4 and a J2F-5 at Coast Guard Air Station (CGAS) Port Angeles, Washington and a J2F-5 at CGAS Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Between December 1946 and January 1947, a Coast Guard J2F-6 served in the icebreaker USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282) during Operation Highjump, the Navy mission to establish the research base Little America IV in Antarctica.

Survivors On Display In The U.S.

ALASKA: The Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage has a J2F-6 on display in USAF markings.
ARIZONA: Planes of Fame at Grand Canyon Valle Airport has a J2F-6 on display.
   Pensacola: National Naval Aviation Museum has a J2F-6 on display.
   Polk City: Fantasy of Flight has two J2F-6s on display.
OHIO: The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has a J2F-6 on display in USAF markings.
OREGON: The Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook has a J2F-6 on display.
WISCONSIN: The EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh has a J2F-6 on display.

BuAer Numbers

0162.....................J2F-1 may have unofficially been known as J2F-1A
1198/1206............J2F-2 converted to J2F-2A
1640......................J2F-4 to USCG as V1640
00660....................J2F-5 To USAAF in 1942 as OA-12-GR 42-7771

U.S. Coast Guard Aircraft Numbers

V1640.....J2F-4 (BuNo 1640 from US Navy)

Specifications for J2F-6

Wingspan: 39-feet (11.88-meters)
Length: 34-feet (10.46-meters)
Height on wheels: 13-feet, 11 inches (4.24-meters)
Wing Area: 409 square-feet (38.00-meters)
Empty Weight: 5,445 pounds (2,469.81 kilograms)
Max. Speed: 190 miles per hour (305.78 kilometers per hour) at 14,000-feet (4267.2-meters)
Service Ceiling: 26,700-feet (8,138.16 meters)
Range: 875-miles (1,408.18-kilometers)