Howard Hughes –Spruce Goose
One flew once; the 2nd had its first flight
Aviation dreams are difficult to achieve—a lot of capital, even more tenacity, tremendous drive and incredible vision. Thus, it is not entirely surprising, that the largest aircraft title once held by Howard Hughes, is now help by a project started by Stratolaunch CEO Paul Allen. As aptly noted by Jean Floyd:
“A giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan – surpassing Howard Hughes’ infamous Spruce Goose – took off from California on its first flight on Saturday.
The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. It landed two hours later.
Stratolaunch Systems chief executive Jean Floyd said the aircraft made a “spectacular” landing. The company, founded by billionaire Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who died in October, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites.
“It was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird take flight, to see Paul Allen’s dream come to life in front of my very eyes,” Floyd told a teleconference briefing.
As the plane lifted off, Floyd said, “I did whisper a ‘thank you’ to Paul for allowing me to be part of this remarkable achievement.”
The Spruce Goose flew but once and the Stratolaunch’s first flight will be followed by many excursions to the edge of space.
Hughes recognized that America’s supply, carrying troops and material across the North Atlantic, were falling prey to Nazi submarine. Henry Kaiser, steel magnate and shipbuilder, conceived the idea of a massive flying transport and turned to Howard Hughes to design and build it. Hughes took on the task, made even more challenging by the government’s restrictions on materials critical to the war effort, such as steel and aluminum. Six times larger than any aircraft of its time, the Spruce Goose, also known as the Hughes Flying Boat, is made entirely of wood.
Its initial hop was flown by Hughes himself. Though never more than an odd artifact, its eccentric owner retained a full crew to maintain the mammoth plane in a climate-controlled hangar up until his death in 1976.
The design goal for the Stratolaunch is equally visionary—as a reusable launch for space packages.
Here are descriptions of its mission-
- one flew the Spruce Goose’s first and last flight
- another did not live to see the Stratolaunch’s initial operation
- Allen’s vision appears to be more likely to reach its goal—a ginormous one
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