Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, OR
The Spruce Goose
There are many aviation museums, but only one has Howard Hughes’s gigantic flying boat, the Hercules H-4 (better known as the Spruce Goose). The plane, made almost entirely from wood, flew once in 1947, and then was maintained in flight-ready condition until Hughes’s death in 1976.
During the Second World War, the U.S. lost enormous numbers of ships, materials, and men crossing the Atlantic Ocean because of Nazi German U-boats. In 1942 Allied shipping losses were at their height, with more than 1,600 ships sunk. In July of that year, the U.S. government gave an $18m contract to the newly formed Hughes Kaiser Corporation to create three flying boats capable of transporting up to 750 troops high above the U-boat threat.
Because metal was needed for the war effort, Hughes chose to make the aircraft out of laminated wood (mostly birch, not spruce). The frame and ribs of the Spruce Goose were made from wood, and laminated wood sections were molded into thin sheets and glued over ...