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Trader Jakes – Issue 770 January 26, 2018

Page 12 “Thank You For Reading Trader Jakes”


The 1901 discovery of oil at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas,

marked the birth of the modern petroleum industry, and drew

Hughes' father, Howard Sr., a Harvard dropout, to East Texas to try

his luck as a wildcatter.After becoming frustrated by the difficulty of

drilling into hard-rock formations with the fishtail drill bit that was

standard at the time, he devised a superior two-cone bit, which

made drilling easier and revolutionized the oil industry. Hughes

patented the technology in 1909 and, with partner Walter Sharp,

formed the Houston-based Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manu-

facture the bit. After Sharp died in 1912, Hughes bought his interest

in the company. When he in turn passed away in 1924, Howard Jr.,

an only child whose mother had died two years earlier, inherited the

thriving company and became a millionaire. The 18-year-old

Hughes dropped out of Rice University, let others manage the oil-

tool business and set out for Hollywood in 1925.

Hughes set an around-the-world flight record.

During the 1930s, Hughes began to seriously pursue his passion for

flying, establishing Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932 (it eventually

became a major aerospace and defense contractor) and setting a

series of aviation records. In 1935, he broke the record for flying a

plane over land, traveling 352 miles per hour near Santa Ana,

California. Two years later, he set a record for transcontinental U.S.

speed, journeying from Burbank, California, to Newark, New Jersey,

in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds. On July 10, 1938, Hughes

and a four-man crew took off from Brooklynís Floyd Bennett Field

on an around-the-world flight. After dipping his Lockheed Super

Electraís wings over the Old Saybrook, Connecticut, home of his girl-

friend Katharine Hepburn, Hughes made refueling stops in Paris,

Moscow, Omsk and Yakutsk (both in Siberia), Fairbanks and

Minneapolis before landing back in Brooklyn. There, thousands of

spectators greeted Hughes, who had set a new record for circum-

navigating the globe, with a time of three days, 19 hours and 17

minutes. He was hailed as a hero and honored with a ticker-tape

parade in New York City and celebrations around the country.

Famous Spruce Goose aircraft was flown once.

In 1942, during World War II, Hughes contracted with the U.S. gov-

ernment to design and build an aircraft capable of transporting 700

troops or a load of 60 tons across the Atlantic. Known by various

names, including the H-4 Hercules, the Flying Boat and most com-

monly, the Spruce Goose (a moniker Hughes detested), it had a

wingspan of 320 feet and was the largest aircraft ever constructed.

However, the war ended before the plane was completed, and in

1947 Hughes was called to testify before a U.S. Senate committee

investigating whether he'd misused millions of dollars in govern-

ment funds on the project. At the hearings, Hughes said of the

Spruce Goose: I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my

reputation rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it's

a failure I'll probably leave this country and never come back. And I

mean it.

After testifying in Washington, Hughes was determined to show his

massive aircraft could fly, and on November 2, 1947, he piloted its

first and only flight.The Spruce Goose (the nickname came from the

fact it was constructed of wood due to wartime restrictions on steel

and aluminum; however, birch, not spruce, was the primary build-

ing material) traveled for a mile about 70 feet above the water at

Long Beach, California, before landing. Members of the Senate

committee later issued a report criticizing Hughes' handling of the

Spruce Goose project but the document proved inconsequential.

After the aircraft's lone flight, Hughes shelled out millions to keep it

in a climate-controlled Long Beach hangar until his 1976 death. It's

now housed at an aviation museum in Oregon.

Always something of a loner, Hughes went into complete seclusion

in 1950. However, in 1953 he established the Howard Hughes

Medical Institute, using profits from the Hughes Aircraft Company.

According to Hughes, the centre was established to explore the gen-

esis of life


became a leading biological and medical research

institute and was one of the worldís largest and most powerful char-

ities. The following decade he refused to appear in court to answer

antitrust charges concerning TWA and thus lost control of the busi-

ness by default. In 1966 he sold his shares for more than $500 mil-