The H4 Hercules – A Supersized Flying Boat And Monumental Aircraft
To this day no flying boat competes with the monumental size of the H4 Hercules, which flew first on November 2, 1947. At the controls during the first and only flight was one of the worlds most eccentric billionaires, Howard Hughes, who designed and built some amazing aircraft during his career. Initially planned for use in World War II, the aircraft had the capacity to transport troops, weaponry and – if needed – two tanks to the battle fields.
Hughes, one of the pioneers in modern aircraft design had built an array of aircraft and was passionate about aviation. The word “Impossible” couldn’t have been part of his vocabulary, despite facing near insurmountable headwind at times. Often times his pride and reputation would ride with the various projects he thought possible. The H4 Hercules however, would remain his most prestigious project.
Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it. – Howard Hughes, August 6, 1947
Powered by 8 Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines, the aircraft had a gross weight of 400.000 pounds, would cruise at 250 mph and had a wingspan of 320 ft. 11 in. With a possible range of up to 3000 miles, the sheer size of this aircraft trumps every single large category aircraft in production. It was built of birch-wood due to the scarcity of metal during the war.
In the movie “The Aviator” featuring Leonardo Di Caprio as Howard Hughes, a large scale model was used. This model was produced by Aero Telemetry of California, who was responsible for the design and building of the models for the movie. The company specializes in design and manufacture of UAV’s and electronic subsystem components for military and commercial applications.
The finished model came in at slightly larger than 1/16 scale and weighed nearly 200 pounds.
Howard Hughes would pass away in 1976 at the age of 71. His legacy carries on in today’s aviation world. The one and only H4 Hercules lives at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which acquired the old lady in 1992. Hughes enjoyed Waterflying a lot and owned a Sikorsky S-43 as well.