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The “Spruce Goose”: Howard Hughes’ Remarkable and Enigmatic Wooden Aircraft

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

Fun Facts About the Spruce Goose

Names: Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules (“Spruce Goose”)

Description: The Hughes Flying Boat is a cargo-type seaplane designed to transport men and materials over long distances. This aircraft is of a single hull, eight-engine design, with a single vertical tail, fixed wing-tip floats, and full cantilever wing and tail surfaces. The entire airframe and surface structures are composed of laminated wood (primarily birch). All primary control surfaces except the flaps are fabric covered. The hull contains two areas: a flight deck for the operating crew and a large cargo deck. A circular stairway provides access between the two decks. Below the cargo deck are fuel bays divided by watertight bulkheads.

Largest wingspan: 319 feet, 11 inches with a wing area that covers 11,430 square feet
Features full cantilever wing and tail surfaces.

Tallest aircraft: 79 feet, 3 3/8 inches

Length: 218 fee 6 ¼ inches

Record setting: Largest seaplane and largest wooden aircraft: the entire airframe is composed of laminated wood. Primary control surfaces, except the flaps, are fabric-covered. The most reciprocating horsepower ever installed in an aircraft.

Power: Eight Pratt & Whitney R-4360, 3,000 horsepower engines

Propellers: Eight, 17 feet, 2 inch diameter

Weight, Empty:
 300,000 pounds

Weight, Loaded:
 400,000 pounds (maximum take-off weight)

Capacity: 750 troops or two Sherman tanks

Normal Crew:
 18

First And Only Flight:
 November 2, 1947

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Why built: In July 1942, the world was at war. America had just lost 800,000 tons of her supply ships to German U-boats. Henry Kaiser, famed industrialist and builder of “Liberty” ships, proposed a fleet of flying transports to safely move troops and material across the Atlantic. Kaiser approached Howard Hughes with his idea. Together they formed the Hughes Kaiser Corporation and obtained an $18,000,000 government contract to construct three flying boats.

Hughes and his team of skilled engineers designed a single hull flying boat capable of carrying 750 troops. The plans called for eight 3,000 horsepower engines, a mammoth fuel storage and supply system, and wings 20 feet longer than a football field. They called the prototype aircraft the HK-1, standing for the Hughes Kaiser design number one.

Delays and Constraints: Encountering and dealing with tremendous design and engineering problems, the Hughes team developed new concepts for large-scale hulls, flying control surfaces, and complex power boost systems. Hughes engineers created the first “artificial feel system” in the control yoke, which gave the pilot the feeling he was flying a smaller aircraft, but with a force multiplied two hundred times. For example, for each pound of pressure exerted on the control yoke by the pilot, the elevator received 1,500 pounds of pressure to move it.

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

Adhering to the government mandate not to use materials critical to the war effort (such as steel and aluminum), the Hughes team constructed the Flying Boat out of wood. Hughes perfected a process called “Duramold” to create almost every part of the plane. Originally developed by Fairchild Aircraft Company, Howard Hughes purchased the rights to use Duramold in large aircraft. The Duramold process is a plywood-like series of thin wood laminations, with grains laid perpendicular to each other. Workers permeating the laminations with plastic glue, then they shaped and heated the pieces until cured. The result is a material that many engineers agree is both lighter and stronger than aluminum.

All of the research and development that went into the new seaplane delayed the construction process. In mid 1944, Henry Kaiser withdrew from the project, and Hughes took personal responsibility for all facets of the flying boat’s design and production. He renamed the gigantic seaplane H-4, representing his aircraft company’s fourth design.

After the war’s end in 1945, criticism of the project mounted. The Flying Boat prototype had exceeded the government’s funding allowance and the U.S. Senate formed an investigation committee to probe alleged misappropriation of funds. Hughes invested $7,000,000 of his own into the project to keep it going. While Hughes testified before the investigative committee in Washington, D.C., the Hughes team assembled the Flying Boat in the Long Beach dry dock. After his interrogation, Hughes was determined to demonstrate the capability of his Flying Boat. He returned to California and immediately ordered the seaplane readied for taxi tests.

Proof of Concept: On November 2, 1947, a crowd of expectant observers and newsmen gathered. With Hughes at the controls, the giant Flying Boat glided smoothly across a three-mile stretch of harbor. From 35 miles per hour, it cruised to 90 during the second taxi test when eager newsmen began filing their stories. During the third taxi test Hughes surprised everyone as he ordered the wing flaps lowered to 15 degrees and the seaplane lifted off the water. He flew her for a little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet for approximately one minute. The short hop proved to skeptics that the gigantic craft could fly!

 

Special thanks to www.sprucegoose.org

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941: Living in Infamy

The Pearl Harbor Memorial rests atop the sunken U.S.S. Arizona

The Pearl Harbor Memorial rests atop the sunken USS. Arizona

Facts About the Attack on Pearl Harbor

  • Japanese attack routes on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii
    Japanese attack routes on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

    Although the aerial attack was very successful, the submarines failed to finish off any wounded ship inside the harbour.

  • The attack’s success surprised the Japanese as much as the Americans.
  • The last part of the decoded Japanese message stated that U.S. relations were to be severed.
  • The Japanese attack force was under the command of Admiral Nagumo.
  • Japansese force consisted of six carriers with 423 planes.
  • At 6 a.m. the first Japanese attack wave of 83 planes took off.
  • Nickname for Pearl Harbor is “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”
  • Eighteen U.S. ships were hit.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,” in reference to the attack.

  • Three prime targets escaped damage, the U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, the Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga. They were not in the port when the attack took place.
  • Another target, the base fuel tanks also escaped damage.
  • Casualties included 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians.
  • 1178 people were wounded.
  • The day after the attack the U.S. and Britain declared war on Japan.
  • Pearl Harbor is the Naval Base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
  • Pearl Harbor is the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
  • Pearl Harbor has 10 square miles of navigable water.
  • The harbour is on the southern coast of Oahu.
  • Naval vessel placement at Pearl Harbor during the attack
    Naval vessel placement at Pearl Harbor during the attack

    The harbour is artificially improved.

  • The attack was the climax of a decade of worsening relations between the U.S. and militaristic Japan.
  • A U.S. embargo on necessary supplies for war prompted the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • The Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku planned the attack with great care.
  • All of the planes on the Japanese ships were fully fueled and armed.
  • The Japanese planes took off about 90 minutes from Pearl Harbor.
  • The president at the time of the attack was Franklin D. Rooselvelt.
  • The attack brought the United States into World War II.
  • The Japanese fleet had 30 ships.

  • The Japanese were interested in the Hawaiian islands since the islands were annexed by the U.S. in 1898.
  • An admiral said, “leaving aside the unspeakable treachery of it, the Japanese did a fine job.”
  • Japanese suffered just small losses.
  • The attack crippled the United States fleet.
  • The Japanese deceived the U.S. by saying false statements and expressed interest in continued peace.
  • Americans think of the attack as very dishonorable.
  • The attack was planned weeks in advance.
  • The main reason for the attack was over economic issues.

  • Because of the unpreparedness of the U.S. military, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short were relieved of duty.
  • The attack severely crippled the U.S. naval and air strength in the Pacific.
  • Of the eight battleships, all but the Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service.
  • On December 8, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan with only one vote against it. The vote against it was of Represenative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who had also voted against U.S. entry into World War I.
  • Once the fleet was out of action, Japan would be able to conquest a great area.
  • A U.S. Army private who noticed the large flight of planes on his radar screen was told to ignore them because a flight of B-17s from the continental U.S. was expected at the time.
  • More than 180 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.
  • Pearl Harbor Memorial
    Pearl Harbor Memorial

    During the attack the USS Arizona sank with a loss of more than 1,100 men.

  • A white concrete and steel structure now spans the hull of the sunken ship as a memorial.
  • The memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1962.
  • U.S. officials had been aware that an attack by Japan was probable, but did not know the time or place it would occur.
  • Pearl Harbor was not in the state of high alert when the attack started, Anti-Aircraft guns were left unmanned.
  • The Americans were taken completely by surprise.
  • The main targets for the first wave was the airfield and battleships.
  • The second wave targets were other ships and shipyard facilities.
  • The air raid lasted until about 9:45 a.m.

 

 

 

Special thanks to  www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com and www.absoluteastronomy.com

 

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Parachuting and Skydiving: Thrills, Chills and One Big Adrenaline Rush

 

Amazing Facts About Parachuting and Skydiving

  • DaVinci sketched the design for the first parachute in 1485

    Leonardo DaVinci's Original Parachute Design

    Arian Nicholas' jump in DaVinci replica chute

  • Leslie Irvin made the first parachute jump and free-fall on April 19th, 1919
  • On June 26, 2000–over 500 years later , Adrian Nicholas jumped an exact replica of it…and it worked!
  • The replica chute was built under the watchful eye of Dr. Martin Kemp, a Oxford University DaVinci expert. It was made of wood, canvas and rope. Its weight was 187 pounds. it was jumped from a balloon at 10,000 feet. Nicholas road it to 7,000 feet when he cut away from it and used a traditional parachute for landing.
  • Benjamin Franklin, an early proponent of airborne warfare, while serving in Paris, was so enthused by the success of hot air balloons in 1784 that he posed this interesting military question. “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense as that ten thousand men descend from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief?”. He was to describe what Airborne is all about….back in 1784.
  • The first proposed plan to drop the U.S. 1st Infantry Division from a Handley-Page Bomber on the German controlled city of Metz was devised by a young officer on General Billy Mitchell’s staff named Lewis H. Brereton . He presented the plan to General Billy Mitchell who supported it and took it to General “Black Jack” Pershing. The time was October 1918 and the armistice was less then 3 weeks away. General Pershing shelved the idea. The 1st Infantry was to be the first to use Airborne!
  • “Phantom” Airborne Divisions of WWII. These are official U.S. Army Airborne Divisions that existed on paper. They had personnel wear these patches around and in towns. The object was to convince the spies in England that the American had had more Airborne Divisions than they really had. It worked.

    6th Airborne

    6th Airborne

    9th Airborne

    9th Airborne

    18th Airborne

    18th Airborne

    21st Airborne

    21st Airborne

    135th Airborne

    135th Airborne

  • The highest parachute jump was from the very edge of space itself, almost 102, 800 feet above the earth. This drop included a free fall lasting more than an incredible 4 1/2 minutes, during which Captain Kittinger reached a falling speed of 714 miles per hour before his parachute finally opened at 18,000 feet.
  • The lowest parachute use was submerged 10-20 feet. A British navy flyer, LT. Bruce Mackfarlane had an engine failure on takeoff, leading to an immediate ditching off the carrier HMS Albion. Surprisingly, he survived the water impact and was coherent enough to clearly recall seeing the water close over the canopy, and begin to darken as the aircraft began to descend into the depths. His training instincts took over and he yanked the canopy jettison handle with his left hand, and immediately fired the seat with his right. At this point, his memory becomes understandably blurred, but he recalls tumbling free of the seat, still underwater. He had the presence of mind to release his chute and activate his life vest. (He surfaced aft of the carrier, almost directly under the ‘Angel’ rescue helo, which had moved into a hover over the disturbance in the water from his aircraft splash. The helo crew reported seeing his aircraft pass in two pieces along either side of the hull of the carrier. This indicates that if the pilot had delayed his attempt to escape a few seconds later, he would likely have been killed when the bow of the ship sliced his bird in half. LT Mackfarlane is not the only aviator to have such an experience.
  • The lowest recorded combat jump is the German paratroopers (Fallschirmjager) when then jumping into Crete (WWII). The Fallschirmjager jumped from 250 feet.
  • The lowest mass tactical jump was performed by the 1st Battalion (ABN), 509th Infantry executed the lowest altitude mass parachute jump in history exiting the aircraft a 143 feet in England during June 1942 rehearsals.
  • The longest combat airborne operation: 1-509th spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa. The longest Airborne operation occurred 8 November 1942. After a C-47 flight of over 1600 miles from England, the battalion seized Tafarquay Airport in Oran.
  • The most jumps made by one person in a single 24 hour period was by Michael Zang. Mr. Zang broke the world record on 20 May 2001 at 1705 hours (5.:05pm) by completing 500 jumps in 24 hours. That is 21 jumps per hour or one jump every 2:45 minutes from 2100 feet. Mike did this event to get money for children in his program called JUMP4KIDS.
  • To show that anyone from any age can sky dive, a 92 year old man sporting artificial knees did a solo jump in Cleveland, Ohio. He weighed a mere 105 pounds, had fake knees, and a hearing aid. He leaped at 3,500 feet. The oldest tandem skydiving jumper was a 100 year old in October 1999. A woman at the age of 90 wanted to dive for her birthday to prove that age is just a number. She jumped from 12,000 feet.
  • The largest formation of jumpers took place on 6 February 2004, Takhli, Thailand 357-way – was completed on the 7th attempt of jumping and flew for exactly 6 seconds.
  • Four-year-old skydiver: in a leap into the record books, four-year-old Toni Stadler became the youngest person to skydive! The tandem parachute jump took place at the Cape Parachute Club, 25 miles north of Cape Town, South Africa, on Oct. 27, just five days before Toni’s fifth birthday. The youngster was strapped to jumpmaster Paul Lutge’s chest as they leaped out of their single-engine plane 10,000 feet above the earth, freefalling for half a minute before opening the parachute.
  • You don’t have to worry about the free fall creating that “heart attack-inducing” roller coaster drop feeling. The feeling is actually one similar to floating and the air resistance creates a degree of support. Free falling is like a human being taking flight. The air flow is constant and allows for aerial maneuvers that are a lot of fun.
  • Approximately 2 million parachute jumps occur annually. The average number of fatalities is 35 and that is less than 1% of the jumps that take place.
  • There is really no age requirement, but it is suggested that individuals be around the age of 18. It is also important that the sky diver is in reasonably good health.
  • The jolt by the parachute is not painful and you can use the parachute controls to steer it to your desired landing spot. That way, if you somehow get off course, you can put yourself back on course.
  • The landing is a soft landing. You gently land on your feet and step like you’re stepping off of a curb.
  • It takes about 10 to 15 jumps before a student can jump without their instructor. Some may require more jumps than that before they are secure enough to take on the sky solo.
Special thanks to www.parachuting.com and www.beembee.com

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