NOVEMBER 2, 1947: The Hughes H-4 Hercules takes off for its first and only flight off the coast of Long Beach, Calif. The mercurial millionaire Howard Hughes had founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932 and as a pilot set several world speed records, and with WWII raging the Pentagon asked him to design a flying boat aircraft to ferry large amounts of men and material. Hughes’s team set about building a truly massive aircraft, towering five stories high with a wingspan of 320 feet and a hold big enough to carry 750 soldiers; powered by eight engines, it was the largest aircraft ever built. As construction stretched past the end of the war and costs skyrocketed — earning the plane the nickname “Spruce Goose” due to its wooden construction, a consequence of wartime restrictions on steel — Hughes was called to testify before Congress to defend the project. At the controls himself, Hughes flew the plane for just one mile some 70 feet above the waves before landing.
The aircraft is currently on display at the Evergreen Museum in Oregon (http://evergreenmuseum.org/the-spruce-goose).