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Hughes H-4 Hercules

Hughes H-4 Hercules

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The Hughes H-4 Hercules (registration NX37602) ("Spruce Goose") is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft
Hughes Aircraft
Hughes Aircraft Company was a major American aerospace and defense contractor founded in 1932 by Howard Hughes in Culver City, California as a division of Hughes Tool Company...

 company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947 and the project was never advanced beyond the single example produced. Built from wood because of wartime raw material
Raw material
A raw material or feedstock is the basic material from which a product is manufactured or made, frequently used with an extended meaning. For example, the term is used to denote material that came from nature and is in an unprocessed or minimally processed state. Latex, iron ore, logs, and crude...

 restrictions on the use of aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

, it was nicknamed the "Spruce Goose" by its critics, despite being made almost entirely of birch
Birch
Birch is a tree or shrub of the genus Betula , in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae. The Betula genus contains 30–60 known taxa...

, rather than spruce
Spruce
A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea , a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical...

. The Hercules is the largest flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

 ever built, and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history. It survives in good condition at the Evergreen Aviation Museum
Evergreen Aviation Museum
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is an aviation museum which displays a number of military and civilian aircraft and spacecraft, most notably, the Hughes H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose". The museum is located in McMinnville, Oregon, across the street from the headquarters of Evergreen...

 in McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville is the county seat and largest city of Yamhill County, Oregon, United States. According to Oregon Geographic Names, it was named by its founder, William T. Newby , an early immigrant on the Oregon Trail, for his hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee...

, USA.

Design and development


In 1942, the U.S. War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 was faced with the need to transport war materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 and personnel to Britain. Allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to German U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s, so a requirement was issued for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic with a large payload. Due to wartime priorities, the design was further constrained in that the aircraft could not be made of metal.

The aircraft was the brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser
Henry J. Kaiser
Henry John Kaiser was an American industrialist who became known as the father of modern American shipbuilding. He established the Kaiser Shipyard which built Liberty ships during World War II, after which he formed Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. Kaiser organized Kaiser Permanente health care...

, a leading Liberty ship
Liberty ship
Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by...

 builder. He teamed with aircraft designer Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was an American business magnate, investor, aviator, engineer, film producer, director, and philanthropist. He was one of the wealthiest people in the world...

 to create what would become the largest aircraft built at that time. When completed, it would be capable of carrying 750 fully equipped troops or one M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

 tank. The original designation "HK-1" reflected the Hughes and Kaiser collaboration.

The HK-1 contract was issued in 1942 as a development contract, and called for three aircraft to be constructed under a two-year deadline in order to be available for the war effort. Seven configurations were considered,including twin-hull and single-hull designs with combinations of four, six and eight wing-mounted engines. The final design chosen was a behemoth, eclipsing any large transport then built. To conserve metal, it would be built mostly of wood (its elevators and rudder were fabric covered); hence, the "Spruce Goose" moniker tagged on the aircraft by the media. It was also referred to as the Flying Lumberyard by critics. Hughes himself detested the nickname "Spruce Goose".

While Kaiser had originated the "flying cargo ship" concept, he did not have an aeronautical background and deferred to Hughes and his designer, Glenn Odekirk
Glenn Odekirk
Glenn Odekirk , was an American aerospace engineer who made significant contributions to the work of Hughes Aircraft....

. Development dragged on, which frustrated Kaiser, who blamed delays partly on restrictions placed for the acquisition of strategic materials such as aluminum, but also placed part of the blame on Hughes' insistence on "perfection." Although construction of the first HK-1 had taken place 16 months after the receipt of the development contract, Kaiser withdrew from the project.

Hughes continued the program on his own under the designation "H-4 Hercules", signing a new government contract that now limited production to one example. Work proceeded slowly, with the result that the H-4 was not completed until well after the war was over. It was built by the Hughes Aircraft Company at Hughes Airport, location of present day Playa del Rey, Los Angeles, California
Playa del Rey, Los Angeles, California
Playa del Rey is a beachside community within the city of Los Angeles, California. It has a ZIP code of 90293 and area codes of 310 and 424...

, employing the plywood
Plywood
Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

-and-resin "Duramold
Duramold
Duramold is a composite material process developed by Virginius E. Clark. Birch plies are impregnated with phenolic resin, such as Haskelite and laminated together in a mould under heat and pressure for use as a lightweight structural material...

" process – a form of composite technology – for the laminated wood construction, which was considered a technological tour de force. It was shipped by a company specializing in house moving, in three large sections consisting of the fuselage, each wing, and a fourth smaller shipment containing the tail assembly parts and other smaller assemblies on streets to Pier E in Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

. After final assembly, a hangar was erected around the flying boat at that location, with a ramp to launch the H-4 into the harbor. This building became the first climate-controlled building in the United States.

In 1947, Howard Hughes was called to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee
Senate War Investigating Committee
The Senate War Investigating Committee was formed by R. Owen Brewster in 1947 to investigate contracts delivered to Hughes Aircraft for the Hughes XF-11 and Hughes H-4 Hercules...

 over the usage of government funds for the aircraft.

During a Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 hearing on August 6, 1947 in the first of a series of appearances, Hughes said:
The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That's more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it's a failure I'll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

Operational history


During a break in the Senate hearings, Hughes returned to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 to run taxi tests on the H-4. On November 2, 1947, the taxi tests were begun with Hughes at the controls. His crew included Dave Grant as co-pilot, and two flight engineers, 16 mechanics and two other flight crew. In addition, the H-4 carried seven invited guests from the press corps plus an additional seven industry representatives, for a total of 32 on board.

After the first two taxi runs, four reporters left to file stories, but the remaining press stayed for the final test run of the day. After picking up speed on the channel facing Cabrillo Beach near Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

, the Hercules lifted off, remaining airborne 70 ft (21.3 m) off the water at a speed of 135 miles per hour (60.4 m/s) for around a mile (1.6 km). At this altitude, the aircraft was still experiencing ground effect. Having proven to Hughes' detractors that his (by now unnecessary in peacetime) masterpiece was flight-worthy and thus vindicating his use of government funds, the aircraft never flew again. Its lifting capacity and ceiling were never tested. A full-time crew of 300 workers, all sworn to secrecy, maintained the plane in flying condition in a climate-controlled hangar. The crew was reduced to 50 workers in 1962, and then disbanded after Hughes' death in 1976.

Display


In 1980, the Hercules was acquired by the California Aero Club, who put the aircraft on display in a large dome adjacent to the Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line...

exhibit in Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

. In 1988, The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into...

 acquired both attractions and the associated real estate. Disney informed the California Aero club that it no longer wished to display the Hercules after its highly ambitious Port Disney
Port Disney
Port Disney was a planned property of The Walt Disney Company that was to have been built in Long Beach, California, United States. The property was to have featured a marine-themed theme park, a marina, a cruise ship port, a specialty retail and entertainment area, and hotel accommodations...

 was scrapped. After a long search for a suitable host, the California Aero Club awarded custody of the Hughes flying boat to Evergreen Aviation Museum
Evergreen Aviation Museum
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is an aviation museum which displays a number of military and civilian aircraft and spacecraft, most notably, the Hughes H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose". The museum is located in McMinnville, Oregon, across the street from the headquarters of Evergreen...

. Under the direction of museum staff, the aircraft was disassembled and moved by barge
Barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

 and truck to its current home in McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville is the county seat and largest city of Yamhill County, Oregon, United States. According to Oregon Geographic Names, it was named by its founder, William T. Newby , an early immigrant on the Oregon Trail, for his hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee...

 (about 40 miles (60 km) southwest of Portland
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

) where it has been on display ever since. The Flying Boat arrived in McMinnville at Evergreen International Aviation
Evergreen International Aviation
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. is a global aviation services company based in McMinnville, Oregon. Founded as Evergreen Helicopters in 1960 by Delford M. Smith, Evergreen is primarily known for commercial helicopter operations in agricultural and forestry applications...

 on February 27, 1993 after a 138-day, 1055 miles (1,697.9 km) trip from Long Beach.

By the mid-1990s, the former Hughes Aircraft hangars at Hughes Airport, including the one that held the Hercules, were converted into sound stages. Scenes from movies such as Titanic
Titanic (1997 film)
Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal...

, What Women Want
What Women Want
What Women Want is a 2000 American romantic comedy film, directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The movie was a box office success with a domestic gross of $182,811,707 and a worldwide gross of $374,111,707, against a budget of $70 million.-Plot:Nick Marshall, a Chicago...

and End of Days have been filmed in the 315,000 square foot (29,000 m²) aircraft hangar where Howard Hughes created the flying boat. The hangar will be preserved as a structure eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Buildings
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

in what is today the large light industry and housing development Playa Vista in suburban Los Angeles.

Specifications (H-4)


Performance specifications are projected.


Notable appearances in media


In the 1988 biopic Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a 1988 biographical film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Jeff Bridges. The film recounts the story of Preston Tucker and his attempt to produce and market the 1948 Tucker Sedan, which was met with scandal between the "Big Three automobile...

,
a pivotal meeting between automaker Preston Tucker
Preston Tucker
Preston Thomas Tucker was an American automobile designer and entrepreneur.He is most remembered for his 1948 Tucker Sedan , an automobile which introduced many features that have since become widely used in modern cars...

 and Howard Hughes takes place in front of the Hercules, within its hangar, where Hughes briefly tells Tucker that whether the Hercules flies is not the point, as well as how to circumvent the "establishment" and Senator Ferguson.

The 1987 animated feature Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose
Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose
Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose is a 1987 animated movie for television produced by Hanna-Barbera as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 series.-Plot:...

features the Hercules prominently.

In the 1991 adventure film The Rocketeer
The Rocketeer (film)
The Rocketeer is a 1991 period superhero adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and based on the character of the same name created by comic book writer/artist Dave Stevens. Directed by Joe Johnston, the film stars Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino...

,
hero Cliff Secord uses a large-scale model of the Hercules to escape some eager federal agents and Howard Hughes himself. After Secord glides the model to safety, Hughes expresses astonishment that the craft might actually fly.

The Spruce Goose also played a minor role in the 2000 fictional flight simulator Crimson Skies (video game)
Crimson Skies (video game)
Crimson Skies is an arcade flight computer game developed by Zipper Interactive and published in 2000 by Microsoft Game Studios. Although a flight-based game, Crimson Skies is not a genuine flight simulator, as the game is based less on flight mechanics than on action...

 by Microsoft
Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 after a recent pirate attack by the pirate gang the Fortune Hunters in Hollywood 1937, the Hollywood officials attempt to show publicity by showing the Spruce Goose to the public, but it gets stolen by the Fortune Hunters later who wants to underestimate them again, later in the game at New York the security firm Sacred Trust attempt to steal the Spruce Goose as well but it gets disabled by the Fortune Hunters before it can take off.

The construction and flight of the Hercules was featured in the Hughes 2004 biopic The Aviator. Motion control
Motion control
Motion control is a sub-field of automation, in which the position or velocity of machines are controlled using some type of device such as a hydraulic pump, linear actuator, or an electric motor, generally a servo...

 and remote control models, as well as partial interiors and exteriors of the aircraft, were reproduced for this scene. The motion-control Hercules used for the film is on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum
Evergreen Aviation Museum
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is an aviation museum which displays a number of military and civilian aircraft and spacecraft, most notably, the Hughes H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose". The museum is located in McMinnville, Oregon, across the street from the headquarters of Evergreen...

, next to the real Hercules.

In the L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire is a 2011 crime video game developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games. It was released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows. It was released as a 3-disc game for the Xbox 360 console, which prompts the player to switch to another disc at certain points in the...

videogame (2011), exterior and interior views of the H-4 Hercules aircraft are featured in the opening introduction of the DLC mission "Nicholson Electroplating".


See also



External links