The first Widgeon brought into Canada was CF-BUN in 1942 to serve as an executive plane for McIntyre Mines. In its Canadian career it had 25 owners before being exported back into the United States in 1967. The six passenger Widgeon was developed in response to market pressure for a smaller version of the successful Gruman Goose. The first G-44 Widgeon was flown on June 28, 1940 and an hydrodynamically improved version G-44Awas flown on August 8, 1944. In total about 200 were produced during the war and 75 post war. An additional 40 were built at La Rochelle France as the SCAN 30, one of which, CF-ODR, joined the OPAS fleet in 1956.
In addition to the Widgeon and Goose the company also built the G-73 Mallard with luxurious seating for two crew and ten passengers and the large 27,500 lb. Albatross used primarily in air sea resue work. All of these amphibious flying boats shared the characteristic high engine placement designed to minimize propellorcontact with damaging water spray. The design of the boats gave them a sturdiness and low centre of gravity that allowed them to operate in conditions which would have been disastrous for float planes. The float plane does have the advantage of lateral stability not found in the single hulled flying boat. To provide the stability floats were mounted on the wings to prevent the wing tips from strikiing the water.
The original Widgeons had fabric covered primary control surfaces, flaps and the portion of the wing back of the spar - all the remainder was metal. Another feature of the Widgeon and unique to flying boats is the space in the cockpit allowing access to the bow compartment and front hatch for anchoring or mooring to a buoy (or to fish). The cabin is reached through a door on the left side just back of the wing.
A pilot intending to fly a Widgeon for the first time needs more than the usual orientation to the controls, none of which seem to be located logically and certainly not ergonomically. Throttles, trim tabs, flap control, ignition, tailwheel lock, landing gear lever and latches and vrious other essentials are located above the windshield. On the ceiling further aft are the carburetor heat controls, fuel system, master switch and mixture.
The plane is described as being well mannered on the ground but taking off and landing on the water is a different matter. The Widgeon does not have a water rudder therefore before the air speed is sufficient to provide for control via the rudder the yawing to the left must be compensated by using differential thrust or alternatively by using an offset heading of approximately thirty degrees. In addition there is a definite tendency for the boat to porpoise when taxiing. The rugged construction of the landing gear makes beaching an easy exercise.
Like many bush pilots, the Widgeon also went to war and on August 1, 1942 a Widgeon of the US Coast Guard sank the German submarine U-116 off the Passes of the Mississippi with a 325 lb depth charge.