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March 31, 2018

The Spruce Goose — Who knew you can still see it IRL?


Who would've thunk it back in 1942, at the height of World War II?

Howard Hughes and Henry Kaiser of Kaiser Aluminum joined to create three flying boats for the U.S. government.

Adhering to a government mandate not to use materials critical to the war effort such as steel and aluminum, the Hughes team built the Flying Boat out of wood.

It had eight 3,000 horsepower engines, wings 20 feet longer than a football field, and was designed to carry 750 soldiers.

All the research and development of the giant plane delayed it repeatedly, and after the war ended critics of Hughes in the U.S. Senate probed alleged misappropriation of funds.

Hughes, stung by the criticism that it was a failure, ordered the Flying Boat prepared for taxi tests.

On November 2, 1947, with a huge crowd of observers and newsman gathered in Long Beach, California, Hughes took the controls and taxied the plane smoothly across a three-mile stretch of harbor.

From 35 mph, it cruised to 90 during the second taxi test when eager newsmen began filing their stories.

During the third taxi test, Hughes startled everyone as he ordered the wing flaps lowered to 15° and the seaplane lifted off the water.


He flew her for a little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet for approximately one minute.

Doubters were silenced forever.

The plane never flew again, remaining in hibernation in a custom-built hanger in flight-ready condition for 33 years, at a cost of $1 million per year.

After Hughes' death in 1976, the plane came under the control of various groups, until it was finally moved to the


Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, in 1993, where it will live as long as its keepers decide it should.

March 31, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


When I worked for Hughes Aircraft Co. from 1968-1983, our management group was given a tour of the Spruce Goose at its hanger in Long Beach. Our tour guide was the co-pilot when Howard flew it that day. He said, "I was co-pilot and I don't know how to fly." It had rows of theater seats and a large group of CO2 cylinders for fire protection fastened along one wall. The plane was so big that we were able to walk upright inside the wing. A crew of men kept the plane in operating condition. Otto Bombach

Posted by: Otto | Apr 9, 2018 9:52:48 AM

Agree with MM.

Hercules. I'm visiting next month. Quite a trek from Asia!

Posted by: Fred | Apr 1, 2018 3:45:48 AM

The aircraft was officially named the H-4 Hercules Flying Boat and should be referred to as Hercules. Critics gave her the name "Spruce Goose." Hughes hated the name. A friend of his said when the display building opened in Long Beach that if Hughes were alive and saw the "Spruce Goose" sign over the door he would burn down the building. Why would we continue to use a name that was intended to be an insult?

Posted by: Michael Maricle | Apr 1, 2018 1:23:47 AM

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