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Back in the Day: first and only flight of the world's largest plane

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Back in the Day: first and only flight of the world's largest plane


November 2, 1947. The enormous H-4 Hercules, to this day the biggest plane ever made, makes a successful maiden flight at Long Beach, California. It would never fly again. The H-4 was built by Hollywood movie producer and aviation fanatic Howard Hughes, the subject of Martin Scorsese’s 2004 film ‘The Aviator’. The US government ordered a large flying boat in 1942, as it needed to transport troops and equipment for the war effort and the tender was finally given to the Hughes Aircraft company. Due to wartime restrictions on metals such as aluminium, Hughes made the plane out of birch wood. This led to it being nicknamed ‘The Spruce Goose’. Standing at 24.1 metres, it was the same height as a modern Airbus A-380 but its wingspan of 97.5 metres makes the H-4 the widest plane in history (an Airbus A-380 wingspan is 79.8 metres). Hughes was called before the US Congress in 1947 to justify the use of public money for something that had yet to be produced. To prove his point he flew the plane around 20 metres above sea level for about 1.6 kilometres. But with the war over, there was no longer a need for the ‘Spruce Goose’, which the increasingly eccentric and reclusive Hughes kept at great expense in a climate-controlled hangar until his death in 1976. It is now on display at a museum in Oregon.

Also on November 2: the first recorded example of cheerleading in Minnesota (1898); Haile Selassie is crowned Emperor of Ethiopia (1930); launch of the BBC Television Service (1936).

Born on November 2: Marie Antoinette (1755), Warren G. Harding (1865), Burt Lancaster (1913), Queen Sofia of Spain (1938), k.d. Lang (1961), David Schwimmer (1966).

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