Jimmy Buffett Anonymously Donated Two WWII-Era Aircraft to a Museum Before His Death

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / DVIDS / Public Domain
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / DVIDS / Public Domain

Jimmy Buffett’s passing on September 1, 2023 was a shock to music fans across the world. The “Margaritaville” singer’s death was attributed to an aggressive form of skin cancer known as Merkel-cell carcinoma, with him having entered hospice care one month prior.

Along with music, Buffett was a life-long aviation enthusiast, having obtained his private and commercial pilot’s licenses. He was the proud owner of several historic aircraft, the most famous being the restored Grumman HU-16 Albatross Hemisphere Dancer. Heavily featured in his memoir, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, and a former US Navy search and rescue platform, the aircraft has since been put on display at the Margaritaville resort in Orlando, Florida.

Just over a year before his death, Buffett donated two of his prized aircraft to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. What’s more, he did it anonymously, without wanting the public to know of his generosity.

Jimmy Buffett’s anonymous donation

Entrance to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park on a cloudy day
Entrance to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Two days after his passing, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park revealed Jimmy Buffett had donated two World War II-era military aircraft to the museum in 2022: a Grumman Goose Mk. II and a Boeing-Stearman Model 75. He’d wished to remain anonymous until the time was right, and the team in Mobile felt his death was the ideal moment to reveal his generosity.

“As the world mourns his passing, we are pleased to finally be able to share his generous contributions to the park,” the museum wrote on Facebook, adding that both aircraft are currently on display in the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion.

Speaking with the media, those in charge of the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park explained that Buffett’s team had contacted organizers to arrange the donation. Once approved, the pair were disassembled, shipped to Mobile in pieces and reassembled for all to view.

Boeing-Stearman Model 75

Serving as a trainer for the US Army Air Forces (USAAF), Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force (CAAF) during World War II, the Boeing-Stearman Model 75 was so highly produced that many were sold off for civilian use following the conflict. The most common post-war role for the aircraft was as a crop duster, but it was also flown in aerobatic shows and as a sports plane.

Jimmy Buffett’s Model 75, number N43320, was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2002, and it’s most famous for making a cameo in the music video for his song, “Trip Around the Sun.”

Grumman Goose Mk. II

Grumman Goose Mk. II parked outside of a building
Jimmy Buffett’s Grumman Goose Mk. II on display at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. (Photo Credit: Johnny Comstedt / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Grumman G-21 Goose served in a variety of roles during World War II: search and rescue, reconnaissance, and transport. While initially built to transport the wealthy, it transitioned into a role with the US military upon the United States joining the conflict.

Several services flew the Goose, including the US Army Air Forces, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the US Coast Guard, the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and the Royal Australian Air Force (albeit just a single unit). Once the Second World War came to an end, the aircraft returned to civilian service.

Jimmy Buffett’s Goose, number N48550, was donated to the Royal Canadian Air Force in November 1940. Serving out of Patricia Bay, British Columbia, the aircraft largely performed anti-submarine patrols with the No. 122 Squadron.

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Following the conflict, this particular Goose was retired and turned into an airliner. After several decades, it fell into Buffett’s hands, where it remained until it was donated to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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