Trivia Minute November 2, 2015

207: The First (and Only) Flight of the Spruce Goose

by Marcus Michelson
SpruceGoose
The Hughes H-4 Hercules, better known as the Spruce Goose, during its test flight on Nov. 2, 1947, off of Long Beach, Calif. (Photo by FAA via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1947, the Hughes H-4 Hercules made its first and only flight.

Here are some things you may not have known about the airplane known as the Spruce Goose.

Henry J. Kaiser and Howard Hughes teamed up in 1942 to build the largest aircraft of its time. Kaiser, a shipbuilder, wanted a way to carry large loads across the Atlantic while avoiding German submarines. Kaiser brought his flying-boat idea to Hughes, who had the aeronautical background that Kaiser did not.

Kaiser eventually grew tired of Hughes’ methodical pace and pursuit of perfection and left the project. Wartime restrictions meant materials such as aluminum could not be used for the project. So, Hughes decided to use wood instead. While the plane became known as the Spruce Goose, it is actually made mostly of birch.

The Spruce Goose was designed to carry 750 fully equipped troops or two 30-ton M4 Sherman tanks. Its wingspan of nearly 321 feet remains the longest ever built. The construction was finally completed in 1947, well after the end of the war.

On Nov. 2, 1947, with Hughes at the controls, the Spruce Goose lifted off, and flew for about a mile at an altitude of 70 feet. The plane splashed down safely and was never flown again. A crew of 300 workers kept the plane in flying condition until 1962, when the staff was reduced to 50 workers. The maintenance was stopped after Hughes’ death in 1976.

In 1980, the Spruce Goose was put on display near the site of its test flight in Long Beach, California. In 1993 the plane was moved, largely by barge, to Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Our question, what airplane unseated the Spruce Goose as the largest plane in the world?

Today is Statehood Day in North and South Dakota. It’s unofficially National Deviled Egg Day. It’s the birthday of Marie Antoinette, former U.S. Presidents James Polk and Warren G. Harding, and actor Burt Lancaster.

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