One Hit Wonder

There are certain anniversaries that I would like to cover, and I haven’t looked at This day in Aviation yet. On 2nd November 1947 the world witnessed the first and only flight of the Hughes H-4 “Hercules” NX37602 better known as the “Spruce Goose” even though it was largely made of birch. Intended to carry 750 troops across the Atlantic, it was revolutionary in its construction, being of birch and resin composite, and aroused much controversy and speculation as the project lagged.

Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose

First and only flight of the Hughes H-4 “Hercules” (aka Spruce Goose”)
at Long Beach, California on 2 November, 1947

It’s probably a measure of Hughes’ capricious nature that having proved the concept, the H-4 was shelved after its first and only flight. A Hughes crew maintained the aircraft in flying condition in a climate-controlled hangar, but this crew was reduced in size over the years and disbanded entirely after Howard Hughes’ death in 1976.

The Aero Club of Southern California put the aircraft on display in 1980 in a large dome adjacent to the RMS Queen Mary. The Walt Disney Company acquired both attractions and some years later told the aero club it no longer wished to display the Hercules. The aircraft was transported by barge, train, and truck to its current home in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where it arrived on February 27, 1993.

Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, the

Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, the “Spruce Goose” at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, Oregon
By Drew Wallner (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Some nice footage exists of the H-4 on YouTube, including this documentary excerpt.