- 20 мая 2017, 04:19
- The National Interest
Warfare History Network
America wanted a giant flying boat; Howard Hughes made it.
The Time magazine article was titled “It Flies!” It was a note of triumph and vindication, but also an epitaph, of an aircraft that was five years in the making—the “Spruce Goose,” a plane that should not have existed. Many things were against it, even, to a certain degree, its creator.
The week of May 4-10, 1942, saw the loss of 300,000 deadweight tons of Allied shipping to German U-boats, loss rates that were twice new ship launches. Imaginative use of America’s industrial and technological strengths to deal with such problems was the mission of the War Production Board’s planning committee.
On May 22, F.H. Hoge, Jr., a member of the committee, proposed the use of extremely large flying boats, pointing out that current aircraft on transoceanic flights devoted 38 percent of their takeoff weight to fuel and oil, but that a 300,000-pound plane would use only 20 percent, and, that since flying boats did not require landing gear, an additional 15 percent in aircraft weight would be saved.
But it was the industrialist Henry J. Kaiser who saw the opportunity. He approached such problems with big schemes, limitless energy, and a genius for organization and improvisation. He had moved from constructing mammoth hydroelectric dams, such as the Hoover and Grand Coulee, to shipbuilding in 1941.
Faced with the terrible loss of shipping that was threatening the Allies, Kaiser suggested two possible solutions. One was to convert some of his shipyards to the mass production of giant seaplanes. The other was to mass produce antisubmarine aircraft carriers on Liberty Ship hulls. In the latter case, Kaiser facilities would produce some 70 escort carriers during the war.
But in the summer of 1942, after the Germans sank 681 Allied ships in the first seven months of the year, the idea of flying boats captured the nation’s imagination. In July, Kaiser outlined plans for flying boats of 200 to 500 tons and launched a publicity and lobbying campaign telling the press that he envisioned a fleet of 5,000 flying boats.
He followed with a proposal to the Army and Navy. And, though they considered it impractical, they knew that the public and some members of Congress believed otherwise. The Aircraft Division of the War Production Board was asked to review Kaiser’s proposal.Read full article