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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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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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The Sears/Willis Tower: A Mainstay of the Chicago Skyline Since 1973

The Sears tower (now known as the Willis tower)

The Sears tower (now known as the Willis tower)

Fun Facts About the Sears Tower/Willis Tower


  • The tower was originally named after Sears, Roebuck and Co., an American chain of Department Stores which was headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In 1993, Sears sold the building after moving to the suburbs.

    Sears Department Store

    Sears Department Store

  • The building’s name was left unchanged until July 16, 2009, when it was renamed Willis Tower for one of the skyscraper’s tenants, a British insurance firm. The move was met with local opposition, however, and some even started online petitions to protest the name change.
  • The tower was designed by Fazlur Kahn and Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)
  • At the time the Sears tower was constructed in 1973, it was the world’s tallest building, eclipsing New York’s twin-towered World Trade Center by 25 meters (83 ft).
  • It would keep the title of tallest building in the world until the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were constructed in 1997.
  • There was much discussion on whether the Petronas towers are actually taller than the Sears tower as the height of the antennas on the Petronas towers are included in the total height, while the height of the antennas are not included in the height calculation of the Sears tower as they are not considered an actual part of the building. With the construction of the 508m high Taipei 101 tower in 2004 this discussion became irrelevant.
  • The Sears tower is still the tallest skyscraper in Chicago, exceeding the height of the number 2, the Trump International Hotel and Tower by 27 meters (89 ft) and the Aon Centerby 96 meters (315 ft).
  • The Sears tower is also still the tallest building in North America.
  • The building consists of nine framed tubes, which are actually nine skyscrapers on themselves taken together into one building.
  • The nine tubes all reach forty-nine stories. At that point, two tubes end. The other rise up to the sixty-fifth floor. From the sixty-sixth to the ninetieth floor, the tower has the shape of a crucifix. Two tubes, creating a rectangular, reach the full height of 442 meters (1451ft).
  • Originally, the plan included no less than 15 tubes, but when the planned hotel was
    taken out of the project, only nine tubes were used in the final designs.
  • The Sears Tower covers two city blocks and has 101 acres (4.4 million square feet) of space.
  • The foundation and the floor slabs have some 2,000,000 cubic feet of concrete – enough to build an eight-lane highway 5 miles long.
  • A 106-cab elevator system (including 16 double decker elevators) divides the Tower into three separate zones with skylobbies in between.
  • The Sears Tower’s observation deck – known as the skydeck – is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. At 412 meters (1,353 ft), it’s Chicago’s highest observatory, besting the John Hancock Center’s by 98 meters (323 ft) .
  • The most spectacular attraction at the skydeck is ‘the ledge’, a glass balcony extending 4.3 ft where you can look straight down. It will make most people feel uneasy at first but the balconies offer spectacular views over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.

Special thanks to  http://www.aviewoncities.com and www.about.com

The Skydeck

The Skydeck

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The Brooklyn Bridge: Iconic Landmark and Part of the New York Experience

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge - an iconic landmark in human ingenuity

Fun Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge

  • In 1802, NY State Legislature received petition to construct a bridge over the East River as an alternative to the many ferry services that operated at the time, including the Nassau, part of the Fulton Ferry Line (named after Robert Fulton).
  • The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869 and took 14 years to complete.
  • In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant, signed the bill to approve the Brooklyn Bridge Plan.
  • The Organization chartered to build the Brooklyn Bridge was named The New York Bridge Company.
  • At the time many saw the construction of such a large bridge as a folly.

    Wilhelm Hildenbrand and John Augustus Roebling

    Wilhelm Hildenbrand and John Augustus Roebling

  • The driving force behind the whole project, John Augustus Roebling, was a German immigrant who had worked for the Prussian government as a bridge and road builder. He launched the idea of building a bridge across the East River after he had taken a ferry across the river that ended up stuck in the ice.
  • Assisting Roebling with the bridge design was architect Wilhelm Hildenbrand.
  • Roebling would never get to see the bridge he had designed: on July 6th, 1869, at the Brooklyn Fulton Ferry Slip, his foot was crushed while determining the exact location of the Brooklyn-side bridge tower. Although his toes were amputated, he would die 16 days later from Lockjaw (an infection) at the age of 63.
  • Roebling wasn’t the only one to lose his life during the construction: 20 of the in total 600 workers died while working on the bridge.
  • The son of John Roebling, Washington Roebling, took over the leadership of the project but he suffered from the caisson-disease as a result of the works on the pillars of the bridge and was on his deathbed during the inauguration.

    Washington Roebling

    Washington Roebling

  • On opening day, May 24, 1883, about 150,000 people crossed the bridge.
  • The opening day ceremony was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and Governor Grover Cleveland.
  • Roebling had not just made a bridge that looked incredibly strong, it also turned out to be just as strong in reality. A mesh of cables of which the four strongest have a diameter of 11 inches are anchored in the ground and keep the bridge from collapsing. But even if the four strongest cables would snap, the other cables would still be sufficient to support the bridge. Roebling even claimed that the bridge wouldn’t collapse without any cables, it would merely sag.
  • But even after the inauguration, many New Yorkers were not convinced the bridge was safe. So as to prove the doubters wrong, P.T. Barnum led a caravan of circus animals – including a herd of 21 elephants – across the bridge in 1884.
  • Initial Bridge Toll – 1 cent on Opening Day; 3 cents thereafter
  • The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and remains one of New York’s most popular and well known landmarks.
  • The impressive bridge spans the East river between Brooklyn and Manhattan and stretches for a length of 5989 ft, about 1.8 km. The length between the large towers is 1595.5 ft (486 meter). This made the Brooklyn bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge at the time.
  • The most noticeable feature of the Brooklyn Bridge are the two masonry towers to which the many cables are attached. The towers with large gothic arches are 276 ft tall (84 meter), at the time making them some of the tallest landmarks in New York.
  • Roebling claimed that the monumental towers would make the bridge a historic monument. He was proven right when the bridge officially became a national monument in 1964.
  • An elevated pedestrian path not only gives you the opportunity to cross the river without being bothered by the traffic that rushes past a level below, but it also offers a great view of the bridge’s towers as well as downtown Manhattan’s skyline. The views alone attract millions of visitors to this bridge each year.
  • Brooklyn, founded by Dutch settlers in 1636, was an independent city until 1898 when Brooklyn decided in a close vote to become a borough of New York. At that time the Brooklyn bridge had connected the two cities for 15 years.
Special thanks to  www.aviewoncities.com and www.endex.com

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UNIVAC 1: Early Census Supercomputer

UNIVAC 1

UNIVAC 1 - one of the world's first "supercomputers"

Fun Facts About the UNIVAC 1 Supercomputer

  • Prior to the installation of the UNIVAC, The Census Bureau continued to use updated versions of Herman Hollerith’s 1890 electric counting machine through the 1940 census.

    Hollerith's Electronic Counting Machine

    Hollerith's Electronic Counting Machine

  • During World War II, the War Department (precursor to the Department of Defense) began to explore the use of electronic digital computers to process ballistic information.
  • In 1943, the National Defense Research Council (NDRC) approved the design and construction of the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) to be used by the War Department’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. The computer was built over the course of three years by a team of engineers led by John W. Mauchly and his former student J. Presper Eckert.
  • During ENIAC project, Mauchly met with several Census Bureau officials to discuss non-military applications for electronic computing devices.
  • The research for the project proceeded badly, and it was not until 1948 that the actual design and contract was finalized. The Census Bureau’s ceiling for the project was $400,000. J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly were prepared to absorb any overrun in costs in hopes of recouping from future service contracts, but the economics of the situation brought the inventors to the edge of bankruptcy.In 1946, with ENIAC completed, Mauchly and Eckert were able to secure a study contract from the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to begin work on a computer designed for use by the Census Bureau. This study, originally scheduled for six months, took about a year to complete.
  • In 1950, Eckert and Mauchly were bailed out of financial trouble by Remington Rand Inc. (manufacturers of electric razors), and the “Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation” became the “Univac Division of Remington Rand.” Remington Rand’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to re-negotiate the government contract for additional money. Under threat of legal action, however, Remington Rand had no choice but to complete the UNIVAC at the original price.

    ENIAC

    ENIAC

  • Mauchly and Eckert began building UNIVAC I in 1948 and delivered the completed machine to the Census Bureau in March 1951.UNIVAC was, effectively, an updated version of ENIAC. Data could be input using magnetic computer tape (and, by the early 1950’s, punch cards). It was tabulated using vacuum tubes and state-of-the-art circuits then either printed out or stored on more magnetic tape.
  • The machine was 25 feet by 50 feet in length, contained 5,600 tubes, 18,000 crystal diodes, and 300 relays. It utilized serial circuitry, 2.25 MHz bit rate, and had an internal storage capacity 1,000 words or 12,000 characters.
  • Power consumption was about 120 kva. Its reported processing speed was 0.525 milliseconds for arithmetic functions, 2.15 milliseconds for multiplication and 3.9 Milliseconds for division.

    J.Prosper Eckert and John Mauchly

    J.Prosper Eckert and John Mauchly

  • The computer was used to tabulate part of the 1950 population census and the entire 1954 economic census.
  • Throughout the 1950’s, UNIVAC also played a key role in several monthly economic surveys. The computer excelled at working with the repetitive but intricate mathematics involved in weighting and sampling for these surveys.
  • The Bureau purchased a second UNIVAC I machine in the mid-1950’s, and two UNIVAC 1105 computers for the 1960 census.
  • The UNIVAC was also the first computer to come equipped with a magnetic tape unit and was the first computer to use buffer memory.
  • Remington Rand became the first American manufacturers of a commercial computer system. Their first non-government contract was for General Electric’s Appliance Park facility in Louisville, Kentucky, who used the UNIVAC computer for a payroll application.
  • John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly’s UNIVAC was a direct competitor with IBM’s computing equipment for the business market. The speed with which UNIVAC’s magnetic tape could input data was faster than IBM’s punch card technology, but it was not until the presidential election of 1952 that the public accepted the UNIVAC’s abilities.
  • In a publicity stunt, the UNIVAC computer was used to predict the results of the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential race. The computer had correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win, but the news media decided to blackout the computer’s prediction and declared that the UNIVAC had been stumped.
  • When the truth was revealed, it was considered amazing that a computer could do what political forecasters could not, and the UNIVAC quickly became a household name.
  • From 1951 to 1958 a total of 46 UNIVAC I computers were delivered, all of which have since been phased out.
  • The original UNIVAC now sits in the Smithsonian Institution.

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