This Day in History: November 2

Baker Tuthill, Reporter

Today in history, the largest aircraft ever built flew.  Here lies its role in history.

During World War II, the United States commissioned a man named Howard Hughes to built a “flying boat” (a plane with water capabilities) large enough to carry men and supplies over long distances. You could say Hughes kind of overdid it, because the plane he made could carry 700 men.

Production

Because of the war, steel was limited so Hughes built his plane from wood, plastic and fabric (Brilliance). He used spruce wood, and the plane was dubbed “The Spruce Goose.” The massive plane had a wingspan of 320 ft (for comparison, the wingspan of a Boeing 737 is about 117.4 ft) and cost $23 million to make! For a wooden plane! To make matters worse, the war was over by the time the plane was done in 1946. To prove that his plane was worth a big buck or two, Hughes flew it on a previously unannounced first flight. Thousands of onlookers flocked to see the thing fail but were surprised when it managed to fly 70 feet above the water for a whole mile.

Despite the initial success, critics said that the thing wasn’t really airworthy. The Spruce Goose never went into production. Angry and increasingly unpredictable and withdrawn, Hughes vowed he would not neglect the plane, seeing it as his greatest achievement. For 29 years he kept it in a huge, climate-controlled hanger. It cost him a million bucks a year all the way up until he died.

So this is the legacy of the Spruce. Failure even as the creator refused to give up. Perhaps it’s not so bad. The plane could have crashed, causing death and damage. But it survived, and now it sits around for anyone to see. A testament to hard work, devotion, and mostly the fact that some things are just hard to let go of.