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Who designed the Spruce Goose?

Learn about Howard Hughes' famous flying boat The Spruce Goose.

The Spruce Goose on display. [©2008 Jupiter Images]
©2008 Jupiter Images
The Spruce Goose on display.

Howard Hughes (1905-1976) designed and built the all-wood H-4 Hercules flying boat, nicknamed the Spruce Goose. The aircraft had the greatest wingspan ever built and was powered by eight engines. It was only flown once, covering a distance of less than one mile at Los Angeles harbor on November 2, 1947, lifting only 33 feet (10.6 meters) off the surface of the water.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II, the United States government needed a large, cargo-carrying airplane that could be made from non-critical wartime materials, such as wood. Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967), whose shipyards were producing Liberty ships at the rate of one per day, hired Howard Hughes to build such a plane. Hughes eventually produced a plane that weighed 400,000 pounds (181,440 kilograms) and had a wingspan of 320 feet (97.5 meters).

Unfortunately, the plane was so complicated that it was not finished by the end of the war. In 1947, Hughes flew the boat himself during its only time off the ground -- supposedly just to prove that something that big could fly. Today, the plane is on public exhibition in Long Beach, California.

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