Following the Nov. 2, 1947, flight of the Spruce Goose, — reported in a previous From the Archive photo gallery — a climate-controlled hanger was built around the aircraft. A staff of 300 workers, reduced to 50 in 1962, kept the aircraft in flying condition. After Howard Hughes’ death in 1976, the remaining workers were let go.
Summa Corp. took over the billionaire’s assets, but could not find a new home for the aircraft. A May 23, 1980, Los Angeles Times article reported that “the world’s largest airplane, Howard Hughes’ ‘Spruce Goose’ plywood flying boat, will be cut up and distributed to nine museums…”
Many “the Goose is cooked” headlines followed. After a three-month national effort, the aircraft was saved. The Spruce Goose was donated to the Aero Club of Southern California which in turned leased the aircraft to the Wrather Corp.
The Spruce Goose was put on display in next to the Queen Mary. The aircraft’s move across Long Beach Harbor was reported in a Los Angeles Times Feb. 12, 1982, story by staff writers Anne LaRiviere and Jerry Belcher:
The ancient Spruce Goose–first last and largest bird of its kind–went to its final roosting place Thursday in Long Beach.
Like Long Beach’s other great dinosaur of transportation history, the Queen Mary, it will become a tourist attraction.
Designed by billionaire Howard Hughes during World War II as a troop carrier that would cruise at 200 mph, the world’s largest airplane made its final journey with three men aboard at a speed of approximately .346 mph.
The gigantic flying boat, with a wingspan of 320 feet, a fuselage 219 feet long and a rudder eight stories high, was lifted from dockside at Terminal Island by an enormous floating crane late Wednesday night and deposited on the deck of a 240-foot barge early Thursday….then towed by tugboats 4 1/2 miles to its new and final roost, a huge, specially constructed aluminum dome adjacent to eh Queen Mary’s permanent moorage…
The flying boat was constructed mainly of laminated birch wood. However, a small amount of spruce was used in the plane’s construction, and therefore, someone dubbed it “The Spruce Goose” because is sounded right.
Hughes hated the name.
But this move only lasted 10 years. The Spruce Goose owners — the Aero Club of Southern California — sold the money-losing tourist attraction to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.
In a journey by ship, barge and truck, the disassembled Spruce Goose was moved from Long Beach to Oregon. The 138-day trip covered 1, 055 miles. On Feb. 27, 1993, about 10,000 people welcomed the aircraft to McMinnville Airport in Oregon.
The Hughes H-4 Hercules ‘Spruce Goose’ currently is on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.
The earliest Los Angeles Times reference to ‘Spruce Goose’ I could find was in a July 25, 1947, story on World War II funding of Hughes aircraft. By 1980, all Los Angeles Times stories just used the nickname.