“Do the impossible, because almost everyone has told me my ideas are merely fantasies.” — Howard Hughes, American Businessman, Aviator and Filmmaker
Eccentric filmmaker, businessman and aviator Howard Hughes flew the experimental flying boat nicknamed “The Spruce Goose” for the first and final time 72 years ago today. Built by the Hughes Aircraft Company, the plane officially known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules was designed as a prototype to be used for transatlantic travel during World War II and was made entirely of birch wood due to wartime restrictions on metals like aluminum. The largest flying boat ever created, the massive plane also held the record for largest wingspan of any aircraft ever flown, measuring in at 320 feet — that’s longer than a football field. After more than seven decades, the record was finally surpassed this year when the 385-foot-wide Scaled Composites Model 351 Stratolaunch flew for the first time in April. Despite its maiden voyage also being its last flight, “The Spruce Goose” is an important piece of aviation history, and the surprisingly well-preserved aircraft is now on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in northern Oregon.