On This Date: November 2nd

Nov 2, 1947:

Spruce Goose flies

The Hughes Flying Boat—the largest aircraft ever built—is piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle.

H4-Hercules-DN-SN-82-05646

Howard Hughes was a successful Hollywood movie producer when he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. He personally tested cutting-edge aircraft of his own design and in 1937 broke the transcontinental flight-time record. In 1938, he flew around the world in a record three days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes.

Following the U.S. entrance into World War II 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. The concept for what would become the “Spruce Goose” was originally conceived by the industrialist Henry Kaiser, but Kaiser dropped out of the project early, leaving Hughes and his small team to make the H-4 a reality. Because of wartime restrictions on steel, Hughes decided to build his aircraft out of wood laminated with plastic and covered with fabric. Although it was constructed mainly of birch, the use of spruce (along with its white-gray color) would later earn the aircraft the nickname Spruce Goose. It had a wingspan of 320 feet and was powered by eight giant propeller engines.

Howard Hughes, former aviator, engineer, indus...

Development of the Spruce Goose cost a phenomenal $23 million and took so long that the war had ended by the time of its completion in 1946. The aircraft had many detractors, and Congress demanded that Hughes prove the plane airworthy. On November 2, 1947, Hughes obliged, taking the H-4 prototype out into Long Beach Harbor, 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 behemoth 70 feet above the water and flew for a mile before landing.

Despite its successful maiden flight, the Spruce Goose never went into production, primarily because critics alleged that its wooden framework was insufficient to support its weight 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 Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, who became increasingly eccentric and withdrawn after 1950, refused to neglect what he saw as his greatest achievement in the aviation field.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 prototype ready for flight in an enormous, 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.

Also on This Day

American Revolution
John Paul Jones sets sail, 1777
Automotive
First four-cylinder, gas-powered Locomobile hits the road, 1902
Civil War
Union leader Fremont is removed from the Western Department, 1861
Cold War
Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated in South Vietnam, 1963
Crime
A nurse’s aide gets life imprisonment, 1989
Disaster
Truck explosion kills 3,000 in Afghanistan, 1982
General Interest
Britain supports creation of Jewish homeland, 1917
Truman defeats Dewey, 1948
MLK federal holiday declared, 1983
Hollywood
Friends star David Schwimmer born, 1966
Literary
Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial ends, 1960
Music
Miami Vice soundtrack begins an 11-week run at #1, 1985
Old West
XIT Ranch sells its last head of cattle, 1912
Presidential
James Polk is born, 1795
Warren G. Harding is born, 1865
Sports
Grete Waitz wins her eighth NYC marathon, 1986
Vietnam War
Diem murdered during coup, 1963
Johnson meets with “the Wise Men”, 1967
World War I
The Balfour Declaration , 1917
World War II
British launch Operation Supercharge, 1942
This Week in History, Nov 2 – Nov 8

Nov 02, 1947
Spruce Goose flies
Nov 03, 1964
D.C. residents cast first presidential votes
Nov 04, 1956
Soviets put brutal end to Hungarian revolution
Nov 05, 1994
George Foreman becomes oldest heavyweight champ
Nov 06, 1962
U.N. condemns apartheid
Nov 07, 1991
Magic Johnson announces he is HIV positive
Nov 08, 1895
German scientist discovers X-rays

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