By Cheri Fisher Photos provided b Bob McCaffery
The 70th anniversary of the solo flight of the “SPRUCE GOOSE” is November 2nd, 2017. The “Flying Boat” was created and built during World War II by famed aviator Howard Hughes. The airplane was built out of laminated wood (mostly hardwood birch) and is the largest wooden airplane ever built, if you set it on a football field the wing tips would reach from goal post to goal post (and that is huge, folks)
On November 2nd 1947, the taxi tests of the ship had 32 people on board and it taxied into the Long Beach Harbor Channel with Hughes as the pilot. After two uneventful taxi tests, Hughes proceeded with the third high-speed taxi test. He ordered 15 degree flaps and at 80 mph the gigantic plane swiftly lifted off the water. She remained airborne for a low-level flight for roughly 1000 yards. The “Spruce Goose” flew and is still the largest wooden aircraft to fly.
In the 1960’s Howard Hughes was a household name in Southern California. Then in the 70‘s Bob McCaffery, was an engineering consultant on the Apache at Hughes Helicopter in Culver City, CA and his manager was the radio operator on the one and only flight of the famed “Spruce Goose”. Bob was afforded the rare opportunity to see this magnificent airplane in its hanger. Bob fell in love with the airplane. Hughes made the statement numerous times, “THAT NOTHING MEANS MORE TO ME THAN MY FLYING BOAT”. In 1976 after Hughes death, the ship was scheduled for demolition and Bob formed a committee to “Save the Goose” and in the 80’s after countless hours of collecting petition signatures, appearing on GOOD MORNING AMERICA with Glenn Odekirk, and getting every aviation organization to joins his committee, he did it. The Plane was put on the “National Register of Historic Places”. Bob and his group stopped the destruction of the world’s largest plane.
The “Spruce Goose” is now safely nestled in the pristine museum in McMinnville, Oregon accompanied by numerous World War I, WW II, and other war birds.