10 Things We Learned About The H-4 Hercules

YouTube / Paul Stewart

The Hercules is a massive cargo sea boat built towards the end of World War II by the Hughes Aircraft Company. 

Here are ten interesting things that you need to know about the behemoth of a plane:

1. It’s huge by 2022 standards, let alone in the 1940s

The Hercules was a massive unit. It was a 400,000-pound or 181,436-kilogram flying boat and was the biggest one ever built with a wide wingspan. 

In fact, it had the longest wingspan of any aircraft ever up until 2019, when the six-engine Stratolauncher was created. 

2. It had the world’s first hydraulically actuated control systems

Because the control surfaces were all massive and heavy, it would almost be impossible for a human to operate without assistance. 

3. Although Howard Hughes was a designer and contributed financially, the idea came from a shipbuilder

The shipbuilder called Henry J. Kaiser planned to build a plane that was capable of carrying 68 tons of cargo which would equate to 750 troops or two M4 Sherman tanks. 

4. It was powered by eight Pratt Whitney R 4360 wasp major 28-cylinder engines

These massive engines produced around 3,000 horsepower and consumed 109 gallons of fuel per hour at cruise speed. 

The plane was also fitted with four-bladed Hamilton standard propellers, which were 17 feet and two inches in diameter.   

5. The aircraft was initially called the HK-1

This recognizes both Hughes and Kaiser working together. It was nicknamed as the Spruce Goose. However, Hughes wasn’t a fan of the name, and it wasn’t made of spruce wood. In fact, the plane was a plane of birch, although the other name still stuck. 

6. Hughes built just one example instead of the three originally ordered

This was because it was already obvious that the war was coming to an end. It also experienced many lengthy delays, and it wasn’t until 1947 that it was assembled and ready for testing, two years after the war had ended. 

7. The interior featured two decks connected by a spiral staircase

The cockpit features massive windows and reclining padded chairs for the crew. 

8. The Hercules made its first and last flight on November 2, 1947

The plane rose 33 feet off the surface of Long Beach, California’s harbor, and flew for one mile. It remained in the air for less than a minute and reached 70 feet off the water at a speed of 80 mph before it hit the surface. After this, the aircraft had not flown since. 

9. Throughout the remainder of Hughes’ lifetime, he spent millions of dollars keeping the aircraft in airworthy conditions until his death in 1976

The Hercules was exhibited at Long Beach before it made one final journey in its current home in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon. Here, visitors can climb aboard the Hercules. 

10. The Hercules became the biggest aircraft in the world for over seventy years

Up to this day, it remains one of the biggest flying boats ever built. Meanwhile, Hughes wanted to be remembered for his significant contribution to the aviation world.