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The Spruce Goose

Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum houses Howard Hughes’s
mega plane.

The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.
Photo caption
The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.

Critics dubbed it the Flying Lumberyard, but the H-4 Hercules is better known by another moniker: the Spruce Goose. Though capable of carrying 750 troops, the humongous wooden flying boat designed by Howard Hughes arrived in 1947—two years too late to aid the Allied effort in World War II. Today, the eight-engine aircraft with its worldrecord wingspan (319 feet, 11 inches) and height (79 feet) rests in McMinnville, Ore., still a giant among flying machines.

WOOD YOU BELIEVE? Aluminum and steel were restricted when work on the plane began in 1942, so Hughes had it made of wood—birch, not spruce.

To construct the airframe and surface, workers used plastic glue to laminate thin sheets of wood into panels that proved to be lighter and stronger than aluminum.

UP, UP, NOT QUITE AWAY! Hughes piloted the H-4 on its only flight, cruising 70 feet above Long Beach Harbor in Southern California for a little over one mile on November 2, 1947.

RELOCATION In 1993, the disassembled aircraft arrived in McMinnville after a 138-day, 1,055-mile journey by barge from Long Beach.

A PLACE IN HISTORY Visitors may now pony up $25 to have their photos taken in Hughes’s pilot seat.

Photography by Robbie McClaren

This article was first published in March 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.