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Spruce Goose

(Click the pictures for a bigger version)
The industrialist Henry Kaiser conceived the idea of giant flying boats in 1942 to ferry supplies and troops to Europe. He joined forces with Howard Hughes who eventually took over the project. Hughes was a perfectionist and the H-4 cost far more than planned and the war was over before it was finished. Built largely out of wood, it was known as the 'Spruce Goose'; with a wingspan of 320 feet it would have carried 700 troops.

On the 2nd of November 1947 Hughes flew the Spruce Goose for just over a mile. Inset in this picture is Hughes himself at the controls, just before the flight

The Hughes Flying Boat at anchor, Terminal Island, Long Beach, California, November 1, 1947 shortly before the first and only flight.

After Hughes's death in 1976 the Spruce Goose was installed in a special hangar in Los Angeles alongside the Queen Mary. He exhibited bizarre behavior that any Columbus DUI attorney from would attribute, at least partially, to his prescription drug addiction.

On February 27, 1993 the Hughes Flying Boat, commonly known as the Spruce Goose, arrived in McMinnville marking the end of the 1,055 mile, 138 day odyssey from Long Beach. The Flying Boat is stored in a temporary facility on the Evergreen International Aviation Campus during the construction of the Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center.

An outside view of the new building, currently under construction, that will house the famous Hughes Flying Boat, near Oregon.

Click here to visit the Spruce Goose web site

The HK-1 Hughes Flying Boat, Spruce Goose

Spruce Goose Specifications
Wing span 320 feet
Wing root chord 51 feet. 9.75 inches
Wing tip chord 19 feet. 7.75 inches
Maximum wing thickness 11 feet. 6 inches
Wing area 11,430 sqft.
Length overall 218 feet. 6.25 inches
Height overall 79 feet. 3.375 inches
Hull width 25 feet
Hull height 30 feet
Tail span 113 feet
Horizontal stabilizer area 2610 sqft
Fin area 1699 sqft
Fin chord 53 feet
Gross weight 300,000 Ibs.
Pay load 130,000 Ibs.
Fuel capacity 14,000 gallons
Power 24,000 horsepower
High speed 218 miles per hour
Cruising speed 175 miles per hour
Landing speed 78 miles per hour
Range 3500 miles
Propellers 17 feet 2 inches diameter
Four inboard propellers are reversible.
Engines (8) Pratt & Whitney R-4360 28 cylinder
3000 horsepower

click to enlarge

It was born of a critical national need to fly over the enemy submarines ravaging shipping lanes during World War Il. First designated the HK-l for the Howard Hughes and Henry Kaiser venture that responded to the government requirement, it was later called the H4 Hercules.

The Hughes Flying Boat was to be the biggest airplane ever built and probably the most prodigious aviation project of all time. Only the courage and solitary dedication of Howard Hughes and his small development group caused this project to advance what a disgruntled U.S. Senator dubbed the "flying lumber yard," resulting in its historic flight in November 1947.

Now commonly tagged the "Spruce Goose," this aircraft has endured to become a popular cultural artifact, telling a remarkable story of sacrifice, determination, and technological development. The HK-l, still the biggest aircraft ever built, was decades ahead of its time in the early 1940s. It revolutionized jumbo flying bodies and large lift capability, shaping modern flight.

Along the way, the Flying Boat development encountered and dealt with tremendous design and engineering problems, from the testing of new concepts for large-scale hulls and flying control surfaces, to the incorporation of complex power boost systems that gave the pilot the power of 100 men in controlling this Hercules.

Engineers hung eight of the most powerful engines available, and deigned a mammoth fuel storage and supply system to allow the long over the water flights. Mr. Hughes and his team accomplished all of this working with "non-essential" materials, building a wood aircraft, mostly birch not spruce, that even many of his colleagues dismissed as impossible. All of this was done within the impractical schedule of wartime.

On November 2, 1947, Howard Hughes and a small engineering crew fired up the R-4360s for taxi tests and thrilled thousands of on-lookers with an unannounced flight. With Howard Hughes at the controls, the Flying Boat lifted 70 feet off the water, and flew one mile in less than a minute at a top speed of 80 miles per hour before making a perfect landing.

This trial was simple vindication from the detractors of the program and it is now looked back upon as a great moment in flight history. The popular Spruce Goose is now appropriately regarded as a true American icon.

Following its short flight it was placed in storage, never to fly again. After Howard Hughes folded his wings (died) the flying boat remained in storage until 1980. From 1982 to 1992 the flying boat was on display in Long Beach, California under the operation of the Aero Club of Southern California. It was housed in a very large purpose-built structure alongside the ocean liner Queen Mary, and was an exciting tourist attraction.

For some reason, probably economics, the Aero Club began proceedings to dispose of the airplane. Among the suggestions offered for disposition was to scrap it. Fortunately that did not happen, and the airplane was sold to Evergreen in 1992. Disassembly began on August 10, 1992 and was completed September 20, 1992. Plans called for disassembly into 38 separate elements. These elements were shipped to Oregon by land and sea. The disassembly was carefully planned and documented to ensure accurate reassembly for its planned display in the Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center.

After disassembly the passage from California to Oregon took several weeks. Propellers, engines, and smaller parts were crated and shipped by overland transport. The rudder, ailerons, elevators, flaps, horizontal stabilizers, fuselage, wings and tail section, much too large for overland passage, sailed by barge to Portland. Leaving the Port of Long Beach harbor on October 13th the Flying Boat barge sailed north through the Pacific Ocean, then up the Columbia and Willamette rivers to Portland in less than five days. The aircraft sections, the longest and highest ever to move through the Oregon City locks, were then barged to a discharge point near the Yamhill river. From there the structures were placed on very large special transport trailers for the final distance to McMinnville.

The Flying Boat is in its temporary weather-proof facility where it awaits it final home in the museum. The $20,000,000 (US) museum structure is well along in construction. The concrete floor has been completed and is ready to receive the fuselage of the "Spruce Goose." Surrounding roof supporting structures have been completed and the roof is in place. The walls of the museum will be completed after the fuselage has been moved inside. While the museum is under construction refurbishment and restoration of the airplane components is ongoing. First, the fuselage will be put in place, then the other components will be installed. It is hoped that the museum will be dedicated in January or February 2001. The collection of warbirds and antique airplanes totals near forty, many flyable. The museum is located across a main highway from the McMinnville airport. Modifications to the highway must be made to allow access to the airport from the museum. Several of the men who worked on the "Spruce Goose" during its manufacture, and a couple who were present when it flew, were part of the disassembly team. They are now assisting in its reassembly.

Update from Stan Richardson, June 2001

"This is an update on the status of the Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center located in McMinnville, Oregon, USA

A "soft" opening occurred on June 06, 2001, and the "Grand" opening will occur on November 11, 2001. "Soft" opening means that the interior exhibits are not all yet in place, but the the museum is open for paying customers. A small temporary Gift Shop is in place to be expanded to a "full service" before the "grand" opening.

No restaurant yet, but that too will be ready in November. Final erection of the Spruce Goose (HK-1 Hercules flying boat) will be completed soon. Wing tips, flaps, ailerons, and some 'tail feathers' will soon be installed.

General admission fee's are: $9.00 for adults, $7.00 for seniors, and $5.00 for children over five years of age. Members of the military and veterans will also receive reduced admission, but I don't have those figures YET!

The B-17 and P-51 (still being used for PR type stuff) are not inside the building, nor is the beautiful Ford Trimotor. Those birds are kept in covered hangars on Portland International airport. Several other classic, non-flyable birds are still outside on the grounds, but I believe they will all be inside eventually."
Baby Great Lakes (home-built)
Bede BD-5B (home-built)
Static Display
Beechcraft Bonanza 35
Boeing B-17G "Flying Fortress"
Boeing Stearman E-75B (450hp)
Convair F-102A "Delta Dagger"
Static Display
Curtiss CW-15-D "Air Sedan"
In restoration, then display
Curtiss CW-A-22 "Falcon"
Static Display
Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" replica
Static Display - under construction
Curtiss P-40 "Kittyhawk"
DeHavilland DH-100 "Vampire"
In restoration, then display
DeHavilland DHM-1
On loan - Seattle Museum of Flight
Curtiss A-26 "Invader"
Storage - awaiting restoration
Douglas C-47
Static Display
Douglas DC-3 (United Airlines)
Undergoing restoration
Ford 5AT-5 Trimotor "Tin Goose"
TBM-3E "Avenger" by General Motors
Goodyear FG-1D "Corsair"
Hiller UH-12E (Model 360) "Raven"
On loan - Seattle Museum of
FlightHiller UH-12E (Model 360) "Raven"
Static Display
Hughes 269A (TH-55) "Osage"
Static Display
Hughes H-4 "Hercules" (Spruce Goose)
Static Display
Lochkeed P-38L "Lightning"
Lockheed T-33-15LO "Shooting Star)
Static Display
McDonnell-Douglas F-15 "Eagle"
Static Display - Memorial
Messerschmitt Bf 109G "Gustav"
Flyable/Static Display
North American P-51D "Mustang"
North American SNJ-4 "Texan"
North American T-28B "Trojan"
Northrop F-89J "Scorpion"
Undergoing restoration
Northrop T-38A "Talon"
Static Display
Mikoyan I. Guryevich MIG-15UTI
Static Display
Piper J-3C "Cub"
Flyable/Static Display
Pitts S-2B
Flyable/Static Display
Shenyang JJ-1 (MIG-15UYI) "Mongol"
Static Display
Supermarine Spitfire MkXVI
Flyable/Static Display
Wright Flyer Replica
Static Display


Click here to see pictures of exhibits at the

Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center

Many thanks go to my friend Stan Richardson, Jr from Oregon, and Gary M. Thompson, Executive Director at the Evergreen Aviation Institute, for their help in creating this page.
Very sadly, Stan has now passed away, he was an interesting chap to get to (slightly) know, I will miss our emails - RIP Stan.