Movie producer and founder of the Hughes Aircraft Company, Howard Hughes was a successful aircraft designer and builder who is most famous for the design and creation of the Spruce Goose. Affectionately known as the “Flying Boat,” the Spruce Goose took its one and only flight on this day in 1947 in the harbor of Long Beach, California.
As the United States entered World War II, Hughes was commissioned in 1941 by the United States government to build an aircraft capable of carrying mass amounts of soldiers and supplies across large distances. With a wingspan larger than a football field and costing over $28 million ($453 million in 2015 dollars) to construct, the Spruce Goose project resulted in an airplane made entirely of spruce and birch wood (due to wartime restrictions on heavy metals) capable of carrying over 700 men. Powered by eight propeller engines, the massive machine was finally completed in 1946, following the war’s conclusion.
Piloted by Hughes, who personally tested each of his own designs before manufacturing, the Spruce Goose was put into flight on November 2, 1947. While thousands of spectators crowded around the Long Beach harbor to observe the test flight, the Spruce Goose taxied on water, then lifted 70 feet above the water’s surface and remained airborne for one mile, turning disbelievers into true believers.
The largest plane ever constructed, the Spruce Goose never made it into production after critics doubted the plane’s ability to withstand the wear and tear of multiple flights. A tribute to American industry and ingenuity during World War II, the “Flying Boat” is currently housed in the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private SchoolsImages by History.com, Mediamerge.com, & Fridrichdesign.com