During the 1930’s, there were few men in America as well-known as Howard Hughes. As the holder of multiple air speed records, his celebrity in the world of aviation was second perhaps only to Charles Lindbergh.
A wealthy businessman known for engineering innovative custom aircraft, Hughes was approached by the US War Department in 1942 to design and build three aircraft that were each capable of carrying 750 fully armed troops or one tank.
Unfortunately, Hughes missed his two-year deadline and the aircraft was not ready in time to be used in the war effort. In late 1947, after five years of construction, the H-4 Hercules became both the largest flying boat and the aircraft with the largest wingspan in history. The craft was made out of a wooden frame which earned it the nickname “Spruce Goose” – a name which Hughes hated.
The first flight of the Spruce Goose occurred on November 2nd, 1947 when the craft achieved liftoff from the water for a distance of about one mile. This flight would also be its last; the Spruce Goose was never to fly again, and was maintained by a crew of 50 workers in a climate-controlled hanger until Hughes’ death in 1976. Today, it can be seen at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, OR.