The year was 1942. The United States was at war with Germany once again (the last time didn’t take), and an innovative new form of aircraft was desperately needed to help transport troops and materials to the British Isles. Howard Hughes, a dashing young man who liked to wear goggles and who had financed such pictures as The Outlaw and Hell’s Angels, proposed the HK-1, a massive wooden airplane that could land on the water and which would be capable of carrying up to 750 armed troops at once to their destination.
Critics were naturally skeptical. Many believed that an airplane of such size could not make it off the ground, and even if it did, all it would take was a few termites to render the whole thing inoperable. They nicknamed it the “Spruce Goose”, much to Howard Hughes dismay, and the fact that it was actually constructed out of laminated birchwood. There were also numerous concerns about the ever-escalating cost for the aircraft, and he would have to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee in order to convince them to let him finish the project.
The Spruce Goose would have one, and only one flight. It started off at Long Beach, lifting up into the air and traveling for about a mile over the Pacific Ocean before landing back down again. The plane had managed to make it a full 70 feet into the air, which was admittedly quite a bit more than most people thought it was capable of. Howard Hughes had proved himself right, and that the huge vehicle did work, but by then it was something of a moot point. It was 1947, and the war was long over.
The gigantic wooden airplane would be consigned to a warehouse for several years, until it was purchased by the California Aero Club. They tried to market it as a tourist attraction, but people weren’t interested, and it ended up moving from museum to museum in search of someone who might actually want the thing. Howard Hughes, meanwhile, slowly descended into total insanity over the next few decades and begin collecting jars of his own urine while wearing tissue boxes on his feet. The critics, apparently, truly had taken their toll.