- historical event: The enormous aircraft was named H-4 Hercules and had as many as eight engines. Its wingspan was an incredible 97.54 meters (for comparison, a Boeing 747 is only 68.5 meters long). On this day, the eccentric multimillionaire Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator”) took off in the Hercules for the first and only time.
One of the greatest moments in aviation history took place on this day. The eccentric multimillionaire Howard Hughes tried to take off in the largest airplane in history. That enormous aircraft was named H-4 Hercules and had as many as eight engines. Its wingspan was an incredible 97.54 meters (for comparison, a Boeing 747 is only 68.5 meters long). Each of its eight engines had 4,000 hp and 28 cylinders, arranged in a star-shaped pattern. All the engines put together had an incredible 224 cylinders and 32,000 hp. In comparison, B-50 Superfortress bombers used only four such engines.
It is interesting that the aircraft was constructed as a hydroplane, because there were no runways big enough for it at that time. Even more interesting, it was made of wood! Namely, it was designed and built during World War II, when there was strict rationing of aluminum. The Hercules was made of birch, in a form similar to plywood.
On this day, Howard Hughes tried to take off from the Californian coast near Los Angeles. The aircraft indeed managed to do it. It flew up to an altitude of 21 meters and maintained a speed of around 217 km/h. This was enough for Hughes to prove to the U.S. government that the Hercules can indeed fly. Hughes thus justified the government funding he had received for his project. Further testing was not legally required, so that the Hercules never flew again.
Today the Hercules, which remained the only one of its kind, is kept in the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.