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Sat, May 10, 2003

Replica of Legendary Hughes H-1B Racer to Fly at Oshkosh

Only One Like It In The World

The only flying replica of the Hughes H-1B racer, will be in the air at this year's EAA AirVenture fly-in convention, July 29-August 4 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh (WI).

The original and only Hughes H-1B, which was designed, built and flown by secretive millionaire Howard Hughes in the 1930s, is now displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington (DC). Hughes considered the airplane one of his greatest achievements and flew it to a closed-course record of 352 miles per hour in 1935 and a then-transcontinental record speed of 332 mph in January 1937. Although he never flew the airplane against after setting the record, his design was widely utilized in many aircraft over the next decade.

The Wright Stuff

The Wright Hughes H-1B replica was built by Jim Wright in Cottage Grove (OR) and made its first flight in July 2002. Wright also flew the replica to a world-record speed for the airplane's class, reaching 304 mph at Reno( NV) last September, on the 67th anniversary of Hughes' first record.

"The Hughes H-1 racer was a unique milestone in the first century of flight, which is why the replica is such an outstanding addition to this year's EAA AirVenture celebration," said EAA President Tom Poberezny. "The rebirth of this design allows today's aviation enthusiasts to enjoy the speed, power and even the mystery surrounding Howard Hughes' first airplane, which was designed specifically to set speed records."

Hey, It Was Howard Hughes.
What Else Would You Expect?

Wright and his team to devote approximately 35,000 hours to the Hughes H1-B project. As the group studied the original racer in Washington and scoured the nation for clues to Hughes' original concept and plans, they discovered Hughes had included many design innovations that allowed the airplane to set world speed records, yet operate from short dirt runways and carry a range of nearly 4,000 miles.

The replica team also found the few surviving technicians and builders who had assisted in the construction of the airplane and had knowledge of the powerful Pratt & Whitney engine that supplied up to 1,000 horsepower to the aircraft.

The H-1B racer was, incredibly, Hughes' first aircraft design, a nearly unprecedented feat considering the era's typical method of trial-and-error, followed by design refinements. After Hughes' record transcontinental flight, it was said that he never looked at, much less flew, the airplane again. The H-1B was stored in the Hughes facility at Culver City (CA) until it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1975, shortly before Hughes' death.

Despite gaining far less publicity than his later design, the mammoth "Spruce Goose" flying boat, Hughes' H-1B racer actually had a more profound impact on aviation history. Many of the innovations used on the aircraft became part of such legendary World War II airplanes as the Japanese "Zero," Grumman F6F "Hellcat" and the Republic P-47 "Thunderbolt."



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