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On This Day



On This Day… The Spruce Goose

Written by: George Chittenden : 10 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 2nd Nov, back in 1952 when the largest aircraft ever built made its first and only flight… the H-4 Hercules also known as the Spruce Goose! The gigantic plane was piloted and designed by Howard Hughes, the successful Hollywood movie producer who founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. Hughes loved aviation and testing cutting-edge aircraft of his own design. He was an accomplished pilot. In 1937 he broke the transcontinental flight-time record and in 1938, he flew around the world in a record 3 days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes.

The Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose

In 1941, the U.S. government commissioned the Hughes Aircraft Company to build a large flying boat capable of carrying men and materials over long distances. Due to wartime restrictions on steel, Hughes decided to build his aircraft out of wood laminated with plastic and covered with fabric. The plane was constructed mainly of birch; however, the use of spruce earned the aircraft the nickname ‘The Spruce Goose’. Development of the Spruce Goose cost a staggering $23 million and took so long that the war had ended by the time of its completion in 1946.

Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes

Due to its enormous size many doubted the plane could even take off, so on November 2, 1947, Hughes took the H-4 prototype out into Long Beach Harbour, CA for an unannounced flight test. Thousands of onlookers had come to watch the aircraft taxi on the water and were surprised when Hughes lifted his wooden monster 70 feet above the water and flew for a mile before landing! Sadly, the Spruce Goose never went into production, largely due to doubts about the strength of its wooden frame during long flights. Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, who became increasingly eccentric and withdrawn after 1950, refused to neglect what he saw as his greatest achievement in the aviation field. From 1947 until his death in 1976, he kept the Spruce Goose ready for flight in a huge, climate-controlled hangar at a cost of $1 million per year. Today, the Spruce Goose is housed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

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