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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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Promontory and the Golden Spike: The Absolutely Amazing (and almost Unbelievable) Story

The Driving of the Golden Spike at Promotory Summit, Utah

The Driving of the Golden Spike at Promotory Summit, Utah

Fun Facts About Promontory and the Golden Spike

 

April 9, 1869: Representatives of both the Union and Central Pacific Railroads are forced by the government into a meeting to determine the meeting point, or terminus, of the two lines. Promontory Summit, half way between the two companies’ end of track, was decided.

April 28, 1869: The Central Pacific completes 10 miles of track in one day – a record that remains unbroken to this day!

May 10, 1869: The “Wedding of the Rails!” Many of the journalist of the day recount the events of the ceremony and record the event as happening at Promontory Point – when actually the rails were joined and the ceremony held at Promontory Summit – 35 miles away. As a result of this inaccurate reporting, most people today, more than a century later, still believe the rails were joined at Promontory Point, as this falsehood is repeated by the media, printed on postcards, souvenirs, in several articles, and even textbooks, and prsented in history class lectures.

December 1, 1869: The terminus of the two lines is moved from Pomontory to Ogden, and Promontory became just another whistle stop along the railway.

Locomotive "119"

1903: The Union Pacific locomotive “119” is sold to scrappers for $1,000.

1904: The line from Ogden north of the Great Salt Lake through Promontory and west to Lucin becomes a secondary line as the “Lucin Cut Off”, a combination trestle and rock fill causeway across the lake, becomes the main line. This new route shortens the line by 45 miles, avoids the climb through the Promontory Pass, and saves the company $60,000 a month in operational costs.

1909: The original Central Pacific locomotive “Jupiter” is sold to scrappers, also for $1,000.

May 10, 1919: The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. The town of Promontory was ready to host a grand celebration, yet not a soul appeared. Local newspaper had planned a great excursion and celebration. However, once they discovered the “Wedding of the Rails” had not taken place at Promontory Point, but instead Promontory Summit, “a desert without water or shade,” the celebration was held in Ogden instead.

1938: Railroad service to Promontory is discontinued.

September 8, 1942: An “Undriving of the Last Spike” ceremonty is held, as 90 miles of rail from Corinne to Lucin are pulled for the use in the war effort.

May 10, 1952: The Golden Spike Association holds its first annual re-enactment of the Golden Spike Ceremony.

1957: The last spike site is designated a National Historic Site in non-federal ownership.
July 30, 1965: Finally, Golden Spike National Historic Site is designated, and 2,735 acres are placed under the stewardship of the National Park Service.

July 30, 1965: Golden Spike National Historic Site is established under the protection of the National Park Service. This recognition of the site’s importance comes after 38 years of campaigning by Bernice Gibbs Anderson.

May 10, 1969: The Centennial celebration of the Golden Spike Ceremony draws 28,000 spectators, including John Wayne, who arrived by helicopter.

May 10, 1979: Dedication of working replica locomotives, “Jupiter” and “119”.

May 10, 1994: 125th Anniversary celebration to commemorate the completion of the Nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad is held. For the first time since May 10, 1869, the original silver plated spike maul used in the ceremony and the Gold, Silver, and combination Gold and Silver Arizona spikes are all reunited at Promontory for the celebration. 14,000 visitors attended, including Merlin Olsen, and the CEOs of both the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads.

July 30, 1995: 30th Anniversary of the establishment of Golden Spike National Historic Site

Special thanks to www.nps.gov

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