07.07.

1946: Howard Hughes Almost Dies Flying the XF-11 Experimental Plane

1946: Howard Hughes Almost Dies Flying the XF-11 Experimental Plane
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 7 July 1946
  • The XF-11 aircraft was in some ways the highpoint of the technology then. It used two extremely powerful radial engines, each with up to 28 cylinders. Each engine had 71.490 cubic centimeters and 3,000 horsepower and was equipped with a compressor (supercharger) and a turbocharger.

On this day in 1946, the famous American multimillionaire and aviation enthusiast Howard Hughes nearly died while flying the experimental XF-11 plane on a test flight.

This event was shown in the Oscar-winning film The Aviator from 2004, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Howard Hughes.

The accident occurred on the first test flight of the aircraft. Howard Hughes personally piloted it, flying off the runway that belonged to his aircraft factory in Los Angeles in California.

The XF-11 aircraft was in some ways the highpoint of the technology at that time. It used two extremely powerful engines, each with up to 28 cylinders. These radial engines were an excellent result of piston engine development during the last period of World War II (it was the year 1946).

Each engine had 71,490 cubic centimeters and 3,000 horsepower and was equipped with a compressor (supercharger) and a turbocharger. The same type of engine powered the much heavier B-50 Superfortress bomber.

Howard Hughes flew the XF-11 near Los Angeles, roughly between the city center and Santa Monica. When he was about to return, one of the contra-rotating propellers stopped working. Controlling the airplane became very difficult because of the thrust of the malfunctioning propeller.

Hughes wanted to save the $8 million aircraft and tried to land on the plain of the Los Angeles Country Club (it seems that he could have parachuted out, but that would have endangerd the people on the ground).

Unfortunately, his landing failed, so instead on the golf course he ended up in nearby houses in the Beverly Hills neighborhood. He hit three houses, wherein one was almost completely destroyed.

Hughes broke six ribs and his collarbone and suffered third-degree burns in the crash. He also got a scar above his lip, because of which he later wore a mustache.

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