Howard Hughes


Howard Hughes : biography

24 December 1905 – 5 April 1976

H-4 Hercules

The [[Hughes H-4 Hercules with Howard Hughes at the controls]] The S-43 Sikorsky in [[Brazoria County Airport in Texas|thumb]] [[Brazoria County Airport Texas: The S-43 Sikorsky prototype]] Hughes Aircraft Company logo until 1985.

The War Production Board (not the military) originally contracted with Henry Kaiser and Hughes to produce the gigantic HK-1 Hercules flying boat for use during World War II to transport troops and equipment across the Atlantic as an alternative to seagoing troop transport ships that were vulnerable to German U-boats. The project was opposed by the military services, thinking it would siphon resources from higher priority programs, but was advocated by Hughes’s powerful allies in Washington, D.C. After disputes, Kaiser withdrew from the project and Hughes elected to continue it as the H-4 Hercules. However, the aircraft was not completed until after the end of World War II.

The Hercules was the world’s largest flying boat, the largest aircraft made from wood, . Retrieved: March 18, 2009. and, at , had the longest wingspan of any aircraft (the next largest wingspan is about shorter). (The Hercules is no longer the longest or heaviest aircraft ever built; both of those titles are currently held by the Antonov An-225.)

The Hercules flew only once for one mile (1.6 km), and 70 feet (21m) above the water, with Hughes at the controls, on November 2, 1947.

The Hercules was nicknamed the "Spruce Goose" by critics, but was actually made largely from birch (not from spruce), rather than of aluminum, because the contract required the aircraft to be built of "non-strategic materials." It was built in Hughes’s Westchester, California facility. In 1947, Howard Hughes was summoned to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee to explain why the H-4 development had been so troubled, and why the aforementioned F-11 had resulted in only two prototypes after $22 million spent. General Elliott Roosevelt and numerous other USAAF officers were also called to testify in hearings that transfixed the nation during August and again in November 1947. In hotly disputed testimony over TWA’s route awards and malfeasance in the defence acquisition process, Hughes turned the tables on his main interlocutor, Maine Senator Owen Brewster, and the hearings were widely interpreted as a Hughes victory. After display at the Long Beach, California harbor, the Hercules was moved to McMinnville, Oregon, where it is now part of the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Evergreen Aviation Museum. Retrieved: December 14, 2011.

Hughes Aircraft

Hughes Aircraft Company, a division of Hughes Tool Company, was originally founded by Hughes in 1932, in a rented corner of a Lockheed Aircraft Corporation hangar in Burbank, California, to build the H-1 racer. During and after World War II, Hughes fashioned his company into a major defense contractor. The Hughes Helicopters division started in 1947 when helicopter manufacturer Kellett sold their latest design to Hughes for production.

In 1948, Hughes created a new division of the company, the Hughes Aerospace Group. The Hughes Space and Communications Group and the Hughes Space Systems Division were later spun off in 1948 to form their own divisions and ultimately became the Hughes Space and Communications Company in 1961. In 1953, Howard Hughes gave all his stock in the Hughes Aircraft Company to the newly formed Howard Hughes Medical Institute, thereby turning the aerospace and defense contractor into a tax-exempt charitable organization. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute sold Hughes Aircraft in 1985 to General Motors for US$5.2 billion. In 1997, General Motors sold Hughes Aircraft to Raytheon and in 2000, sold Hughes Space & Communications to Boeing. A combination of Boeing, GM and Raytheon acquired the Hughes Research Laboratories.


In 1939, at the urging of , president of TWA, Hughes quietly purchased a majority share of TWA stock for nearly US$7 million and took control of the airline. Upon assuming ownership, Hughes was prohibited by federal law from building his own aircraft. Seeking an aircraft that would perform better than TWA’s fleet of Boeing 307 Stratoliners, Hughes and Frye approached Boeing’s competitor, Lockheed. Hughes had a good relationship with Lockheed since they had built the aircraft he used in his record flight around the world in 1938. Lockheed agreed to Hughes and Frye’s request that the new aircraft be built in secrecy. The result was the revolutionary Constellation and TWA purchased the first 40 of the new airliners off the production line.