Poetry in Motion

I love beautiful things, but in particular I love those things that combine beauty and practicality. This aircraft is the Hughes H1, designed, built and flown by the film maker and aviator Howard Hughes in 1935 to break the world aircraft  speed record, and it did just that on  its very first flight, reaching 352mph. Unfortunately Hughes was so pleased he ran out of fuel and crashed in a beet field. He was only slightly injured and the aircraft suffered minor damage, going on to break the trans-continental record 18 months later.

Many groundbreaking technologies were developed during the construction process of the H1, including individually machined flush rivets that left the aluminium skin of the aircraft completely smooth. Also it had retractable landing gear to further reduce drag and increase the air speed. Finally it was fitted with a twin-row 14-cylinder radial engine, of approximately 18 litres, putting out over 1,000 horsepower. The original aircraft is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.

Unfortunately there is a sad end to the story; ten years ago aviation fanatic Jim Wright of Cottage Grove, Oregon built a full scale replica of the H-1 and it made its first flight in 2002. So exact was the replica to the original that the FAA granted it serial number 2 of the model. The achievement in recreating the aircraft was heralded in every aviation magazine of the time. However just a few months later  it suffered a propeller problem and crashed in Yellowstone National Park. Jim Wright was killed and the aircraft was completely destroyed.

Beauty is such a fragile thing.

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