The flight of the “Spruce Goose” in 1947 did travel a bit over a mile in less than a minute. Howard Hughes was at the controls of the airplane (also known as the H-4). At the time the U.S. Congress was investigating his company for the possibility of contract fraud in the construction of the airplane. Some say the flight was Hughes’ way of proving his critics wrong.
While we may never know for sure why Hughes only flew the airplane once, there are a few facts that led to the airplane remaining on the ground. First, the war ended in 1945, so the need for a large transport aircraft was diminished. 2) The airplane was made of wood – mostly birch, not spruce –and weighed in at more than 300,000 pounds. Hughes even admitted the airplane would not be practical. 3) Before World War II, large seaplanes were used to fly across the oceans, especially the Pacific. Advances in aircraft and engine designs during World War II allowed aircraft to fly higher, farther and faster, meaning the need to hop from island to island to get across the Pacific was not necessary.
Whatever the final reasons, the Spruce Goose remains one of the more famous (or infamous) airplanes in history.
You can see the actual airplane at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.
Thanks for asking,
EAA Young Eagles