Howard Hughes : biography
Near-fatal crash of the Sikorsky S-43
In the spring of 1943 Hughes spent nearly a month in Las Vegas, test flying his Sikorsky S-43 amphibian aircraft, practicing touch-and-go landings on Lake Mead in preparation for flying the H-4 Hercules. The weather conditions at the lake during the day were ideal and he enjoyed Las Vegas at night. On May 17, 1943, Hughes flew the Sikorsky from California carrying two CAA aviation inspectors, two of his employees and actress Ava Gardner. Hughes dropped Gardner off in Las Vegas and proceeded to Lake Mead to conduct qualifying tests in the S-43. The test flight did not go well. The Sikorsky crashed, killing CAA inspector Ceco Cline and Hughes employee Richard Felt. Hughes suffered a severe gash on the top of his head when he hit the upper control panel and had to be rescued by one of the others on board. Retrieved 31 July 2011. Hughes paid divers $100,000 to raise the aircraft and later spent more than $500,000 restoring the aircraft.Brown and Broeske 1996
Near-fatal crash of the XF-11
Hughes was involved in a near-fatal aircraft accident on July 7, 1946, while performing the first flight of the prototype U.S. Army Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, the XF-11, near Hughes airfield at Culver City, California. An oil leak caused one of the contra-rotating propellers to reverse pitch, causing the aircraft to yaw sharply and lose altitude rapidly. Hughes tried to save the craft by landing it at the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, but just seconds before reaching the course, the XF-11 started to drop dramatically and crashed in the Beverly Hills neighborhood surrounding the country club. check-six.com. Retrieved: January 5, 2008.
When the XF-11 finally came to a halt after destroying three houses, the fuel tanks exploded, setting fire to the aircraft and a nearby home at 808 North Whittier Drive, owned by Lt Col. Charles E. Meyer.Barlett and Steele 2004, p. 140. Hughes managed to pull himself out of the flaming wreckage but lay beside the aircraft until he was rescued by Oil City, Pennsylvania native and Marine Master Sgt. William L. Durkin, who happened to be in the area visiting friends. Nation SunJournal, May 1, 2006. Retrieved: July 4, 2013. Hughes sustained significant injuries in the crash, including a crushed collar bone, multiple cracked ribs, UNLV Libraries’ Howard Hughes Collection. Retrieved: January 5, 2008. crushed chest with collapsed left lung, shifting his heart to the right side of the chest cavity, and numerous third-degree burns. An oft-told story said that Hughes sent a check to the Marine weekly for the remainder of his life as a sign of gratitude. However, Durkin’s daughter denied that he took any money for the rescue. Boston.com, May 2, 2006. Retrieved: January 17, 2012.
Despite his physical injuries, Hughes was proud that his mind was still working. As he lay in his hospital bed, he decided that he did not like the bed’s design. He called in plant engineers to design a "tailor-made" bed, equipped with hot and cold running water, built in six sections, and operated by 30 electric motors, with push-button adjustments."Hughes Designs Hospital Bed." Associated Press wire article, August 14, 1946. The hospital bed was designed by Hughes specifically to alleviate the pain caused by moving with severe burn injuries. Despite the fact that he never had the chance to use the bed that he designed, Hughes’s bed served as a prototype for the modern hospital bed in common usage today.Barlett and Steele 2004, p. 143. Hughes’s recovery was considered by his doctors to be almost miraculous. Hughes, however, believed that neither miracle nor modern medicine contributed to his recovery. Instead he vigorously believed that the natural life-giving properties of fresh squeezed orange juice (Hughes would drink only orange juice that had been squeezed before his eyes) were responsible for his rapid recovery.
Many attribute his long-term addiction to opiates to his use of codeineTennant, F. (2007). Practical Pain Management 7:6 12. as a painkiller during his convalescence. However, Hughes did not suffer from addiction but untreated IP (Intractable Pain) and pseudoaddiction (a drug-seeking behavior that simulates true addiction in patients whose pain is not being properly treated). The trademark mustache he wore afterward was used to hide a scar on his upper lip resulting from the accident.Schwartz, Bill, dir. Howard Hughes – The Real Aviator (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Shout! Factory, 2004.