I love airplanes, but my brother Bisckits adores them. So he couldn’t have been happier when, during a West Coast roadtrip from Seattle to San Francisco, we called in to see a very special aircraft.
Just outside McMinnville, Oregon, is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. It has an incredible collection of air and spacecraft. But it’s pride and joy is the Hughes HK-1 (H4) Flying Boat.
This aircraft is special for so many reasons. Firstly, it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind, never to be copied, prototype.
Secondly, due to wartime restrictions placed on the designers, it is built almost entirely of wood.
Thirdly, at over 218 feet long, with a wingspan of almost 320 feet and a height of more than 79 feet, it’s the biggest airplane ever built.
The original idea came from businessman Henry Kaiser in 1942, but it was the famous film director Howard Hughes that actually designed and built the aircraft.
The Hughes Flying Boat has been called many names, not least of which is the Hercules, because of its size. But it’s best known as the Spruce Goose, a belittling nickname given to it by the press of the time, which Hughes hated. It’s also inaccurate, since the ‘Spruce Goose’ is actually mostly constructed of birch wood.
During a test taxi run in Long Beach Harbor, California, on November 2nd, 1947, Hughes (who was at the controls) made the unauthorised decision to take off. In that moment, the Hughes Flying Boat went from simply being the biggest airplane ever constructed, to being the biggest airplane ever to fly.
The Spruce Goose flew above the waves for around one minute, covering a distance of about a mile. Hughes had proved to the World that his massive flying boat could fly, even though it would never do so again.
Nevertheless, Hughes kept his beloved creation air-worthy until his death in 1976, just in case. Afterwards, it was displayed in a museum in Long Beach, before finally moving to its current home in Oregon, where it went on display in 2001
Although the Hughes Flying Boat was mocked in its day by the press and Howard Hughes’ critics, Bisckits and I think it’s Exceptional. We couldn’t have been happier to see, and even go inside, the Spruce Goose.
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