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Heroes in Flight: Howard Hughes

For many people, their first encounter with Howard Hughes was through the movie “The Aviator.” Hughes, born in 1905, was an American business magnate, investor, engineer, film director, and record-setting pilot. Hughes was included in Flying Magazine’s list of the 51 heroes of Aviation, coming in ranked at No. 25. Let’s take a look at the impact Howard Hughes had on the world of aviation throughout his life.

The Hughes Aircraft Company

In 1932, Howard Hughes formed the Hughes Aircraft Company after hiring numerous engineers and designers. He spent the next twenty years setting multiple world air speed records and building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules (also called the Spruce Goose). He later acquired Trans World Airlines and Air West.

Round-the-world Flight

On July 14, 1938, Hughes set a world record by completing a flight around the world in just 91 hours, beating the previous record by almost four days. For his historic flight, Hughes piloted a Lockheed 14 Super Electra, a twin-engine plane with a four-man crew. Hughes’ vision was for the flight to be a triumph of American aviation technology, demonstrating that long-distance air travel was safe and possible.

Record Setter

Even before his round-the-world flight Hughes was in the sky setting aviation records. In 1935, flying his H-1 Racer, Hughes set the landplane airspeed record of 352 mph over his test course near Santa Ana, California. It was the last time in history that the world airspeed record was set in an aircraft built by a private individual. A year and a half later, flying the same H-1 Racer fitted with longer wings, Hughes set a new transcontinental airspeed record when he flew non-stop from Los Angeles to Newark in seven hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds.

The Pioneer of Nonstop Transcontinental Service

Hughes is often credited as the driving force behind the Lockheed Constellation airliner. Constellations were among the highest performing commercial aircraft of the late 1940s and 1950s, and made it possible for TWA to pioneer nonstop transcontinental service. During World War II, TWA served Europe, making it the only U.S. carrier with a combination of domestic and transatlantic routes.

Are you Inspired by “The Aviator”?

If you’ve been considering a career in aviation now is a great time to start. Boeing predicts that in the next 20 years the industry will need an additional 617,000 pilots. Demand is high and growing. Request a discovery flight and/or tour at either our Tennessee location or our Florida location and see in person how we can make your aviator dreams a reality!

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