Hughes H-4 Hercules

Imagine an aircraft with a wingspan greater than a football field (less than 98 meters), 66 meters long, as tall as an 8-story building (24m), 113 tons heavy when empty, mostly made of wood, powered by as many as 8 Pratt & Whitney R-4360 with an incredible 28 cylinders and 3000 horsepower. For today’s terms, it’s nothing sensational compared to the Antonov 225, Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 but when you imagine that the biggest aircraft at the time was the DC-3 you can imagine what a monstrosity it was. It is a Hughes H-4 Hercules aircraft designed by the company of Howard Hughes, one of the pioneers of American aviation who is known for setting many air records and for building large aircraft for which he even won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Hughes H-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, is a prototype strategic flying ship designed and built by Hughes Aircraft that was primarily intended to transport cargo across the Atlantic during World War II but the aircraft was not completed on time and never entered in active service.

The need for such an aircraft arose during 1942 when the United States War Department was to transport equipment and personnel to Britain but suffered heavy losses to ships sunk by German submarines. The aircraft was the brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser who teamed up with Hughes who was already designing large aircraft at the time. The aircraft was originally named HK-1 and was designed to have a payload of 68 tons which corresponds to the weight of two M-4 tanks or that the aircraft was used to transport 750 fully armed troops. Aircraft development began in 1942 and there was a need for 3 aircraft to be built in a relatively short period (2 years) to be used as soon as possible.

During the design and construction of the aircraft, disagreements arose between Kaiser and Hughes and Kaiser withdrew from the program. The program continued under the name H-4 Hercules and under the “baton” of Hughes, who signed a contract with the government to build only one aircraft of that type. Construction was extremely slow and was not completed during the war.

The plane was built at Hughes Airport, in today’s western part of Los Angeles, from where the plane was transferred in 4 parts to Long Beach, where the plane was assembled, and upon completion, a hangar with a ramp for landing was built around the plane.

02/11/1947. Hughes himself sat at the command of the aircraft and was accompanied by co-pilot Dave Grant, sixteen mechanics, two engineers, seven journalists and seven representatives of the aviation industry, after two attempts to taxi four journalists left the plane and the rest remained until the end.

The third attempt was successful and the plane took off for the first time near Long Beach and flew for 26 seconds at an altitude of about 20 meters, at a speed of about 200 kilometers per hour and crossed about a kilometer and a half, but it was also the last flight of this aircraft.

After the flight, the aircraft was placed in a special hangar where the climatic conditions were controlled due to the materials from which the aircraft was made, and it was maintained by 300 people for several years and after a few years that number was reduced to about 50. were fired.


Although this aircraft was not successful and did not do what the aircraft were otherwise intended for, it is a perfect example of an attempt by man to defy the laws of physics.