PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Spruce Goose took flight for the first and only time 75 years ago. Now, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville is celebrating with special events in commemoration of the largest wooden aircraft ever built.
According to the museum, Howard Hughes began designing the Spruce Goose during World War II to meet the need for transport that could move materials across the Atlantic Ocean, after German submarines had attacked a number of Allied ships.
Despite being designed for the war effort, the Spruce Goose construction wasn’t completed until after World War II ended. The museum says the aircraft cost $23 million to make at the time, which would be more than $278 million today.
It wasn’t until Nov. 2, 1947 that Hughes and others boarded the Hughes Flying Boat to confirm that it could actually fly. On that Sunday, the Spruce Goose, also known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, lifted off from California’s Long Beach Harbor and flew for nearly half a mile. The flight lasted for about 30 seconds at an altitude of 25 feet.
Hughes died in 1976, but the legacy of his historic aircraft and flight has carried on. In 1983, Hughes’ Summa Corporation donated the plane to the Aero Club of Southern California. The museum reports, “The Aero Club then leased it to the Wrather Corporation, who moved the aircraft into a domed hangar next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.”
Finally in 1992, the Spruce Goose reached Oregon soil thanks to a winning proposal from the Evergreen Museum co-founders that wanted the aircraft to be housed in their museum.
By February 1993, the flying boat was transported from Portland to the McMinnville museum. Years later in 2001, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum had its grand opening where visitors could see the re-assembled Spruce Goose.
“The Spruce Goose has touched almost every aspect of flight history since its creation, and it’s time it gets the recognition it deserves,” Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum Curation and Collections Director Lydia Heins said in a previous release. “The construction of the Spruce Goose moved forward many aviation innovations and has even helped us travel to space. We can’t wait to share all these stories and more with our visitors this year.”
The museum’s year-long celebration commenced on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m., which was the exact time that Hughes’ plane took off in 1947.
There was also a gala on Saturday, Nov. 5 to raise funds for a new and improved exhibit that would feature the once-hidden stories of the Spruce Goose. The museum is still accepting donations for the exhibit.
One upcoming event on Friday, Nov. 11 allows museum visitors to play pilot for a day and fly the Spruce Goose virtually using the Microsoft Flight Simulator that is also celebrating an anniversary this year. Tickets for the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum are available now for up to $22. Stop by this Friday for a chance at virtually flying the iconic Spruce Goose.
“For four decades, Microsoft Flight Simulator has been extending the joy of flight to people
around the world, enabling awe-inspiring experiences with incredible realism,” Jorg
Neumann, head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, said in a release.