Jan 16, 1996: Jamaican Police Fire on Jimmy Buffett Seaplane

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The Hemisphere Dancer

So there’s this great little place just outside Negril that makes the best jerk chicken in Jamaica… let’s check it out. The cool thing about owning a seaplane in the Caribbean is that you can do just that… unless.

Jimmy Buffett was hosting U2’s Bono along with his wife Ali and their two kids as well as Island Records founder Chris Blackwell when his Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying boat made an unplanned landing on the Jamaican coast on January 16, 1996. Jamaican authorities mistook it for a drug runner’s plane and on this day laid siege to it, shooting a number of holes in its fuselage.

The plane is named the Hemisphere Dancer. It also figures in a tour of the Caribbean as well as Central and South America that Buffett took with his wife, son and youngest daughter to celebrate his 50th birthday. The singer-songwriter’s account of that journey, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, became a #1 memoir on The New York Times bestsellers list.

The Hemisphere Dancer is one of a number of prop planes and private jets owned and flown by Buffett, who holds a Commercial Pilot License with ratings for multi-engine land and sea aircraft, and is an aviation and antique aircraft buff. It was built in 1955 as a long range search and rescue seaplane for the U.S. Navy. He bought it in the 1990s and restored it for his use.

Buffett recounted the incident when the Hemisphere Dancer came under fire with the song “Jamaica Mistaica” on his Banana Wind album later that year. The seaplane is currently retired and parked on display at one of Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurants in Orlando, Fla.

Not to worry. If Buffett needs another plane to land on water, he currently has two amphibian craft in his private fleet: A Grumman Goose (an earlier seaplane model than the Albatross) and a Cessna 208 with pontoons.

Related: A collection of Buffett’s early recordings was released in 2017

Buffett has tour dates on his calendar. Tickets are available here and here.

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