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Tue, Dec 29, 2009

Aero-TV: The Spruce Goose: Evergreen Museum's Crown Jewel

Educational Director, Larry Wood, Profiles the Infamous Spruce Goose

In July of 1942, while the United States remained embroiled in World War II, famed industrialist Henry Kaiser proposed a fleet of flying transports to safely protect troops and supplies from German U-boats.  Joining forces with Howard Hughes, Kaiser obtained an $18,000,000 government contract to construct three “Flying Boats.” 

Due to government restrictions on critical war material, such as steel and aluminum, Hughes used a process called “Duramold” to create almost every part of the plane.  Using a plywood-like series of thin wood laminations, engineers built an airframe both lighter and stronger than aluminum.  The resulting wooden aircraft became known around the world as the ‘Spruce Goose.’

Over time, however, Hughes’ “Flying Boat” faced intense scrutiny and delay; in 1944, Henry Kaiser withdrew from the project and by 1947, Hughes’ was summoned to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee, formed to probe the contracts delivered to Hughes Aircraft for both the Hughes XF-11 and Hughes H-4 Hercules (or “Spruce Goose”). 

After the government interrogation, Hughes became determined to prove the flying capabilities of his aircraft.  On November 2, 1947, a stunned crowd of curious onlookers and journalists watched as Hughes immense flying boat lifted from the Long Beach harbor and flew for approximately one minute traveling little over a mile.

After its maiden flight, Hughes ordered the aircraft into hibernation where it sat, flight ready, for over 33 years. After his death, Hughes’ holding company, Summa Corporation, donated the aircraft to the non-profit organization Aero Club of Southern California where it remained displayed adjacent to the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach until 1990. 

Finally, the Aero Club voted to award the Hughes Flying Boat to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Floating 1,055 miles north, over 138 days, the Spruce Goose arrived at the museum on February 27th, 1993. 

Over the next 8 years, museum volunteers tediously restored the aircraft including replacing deteriorated fabric and repainting worn areas before completely reassembling the aircraft. 

Finally, on December 7th, 2001, the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, crews joined together to celebrate the completion of the Flying Boats’ restoration and preservation.

FMI: www.sprucegoose.org/, www.aero-tv.net, www.youtube.com/aerotvnetwork, http://twitter.com/AeroNews

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