Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week: Spruce Goose, Long Beach, CA, 1947

Amid much fanfare and speculation that it would never fly, the biggest airplane ever built finally emerges to show off for the whole world to see.

This slide was taken either just before or after its brief, but meaningful, maiden voyage into flight on November 2, 1947; the only one it would ever take. The flying cargo ship gracefully flew about one mile at an altitude just above sea level. It had to fly, because if it didn’t the government would’ve never paid the bill. Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose for the US government to carry troops and supplies back and forth to Europe during World War II, but by the time the plane was finished the war was over. Oh well.

Immediately following this historic short flight the monster airplane was mothballed in a giant hanger hidden from the public and shrouded in secrecy until Hughes died in April 1976.

I had the privilege of seeing the freak flying machine while it was finally on display between 1980 and 1990 in a giant dome next door to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Of course, I was flabbergasted! It’s HUGE!

A few weeks ago I saw it again, this time at its new home, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. It radically dwarfs every other plane on display. I was quite surprised when I walked into the belly of the beast and was greeted by several dozen 1940s vintage beach balls in various states of inflation piled on the fuselage floor. The docent explained that hundreds of these beautiful beach balls were discovered hidden and forgotten in the wings while it was being dismantled for the tedious trek from Long Beach to Oregon. Apparently, the mysterious Mr. Hughes ordered the frolicy flotation devices placed in the wing floats and all of the empty spaces in the fuselage so the darn plane wouldn’t sink if it crashed!

Yes, beach balls were going keep the world’s biggest plane from sinking!

Here’s to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose, beach balls and YOU!

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Upcoming Slide Show performances…

Curtis Theater in Brea, CA
Sat, Aug 23 at 8PM & Sun, Aug 24 at 2PM

A live, comedy slide show performance celebrating Disneyland, Knott’s, Marineland, Hollywood and all the other kitschy, classic attractions as they were in the fabulous 50s and 60s!

Tickets online here