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Larger than life: Howard Hughes and the Spruce Goose

Industrialist, record-setting aviator, movie mogul, recluse — Howard Hughes was one of America's most accomplished and mysterious figures. When contracted in the '40s to build a military transport plane, he responded with the H-4 Hercules, a massive wooden plane famously dubbed the “Spruce Goose” which would, when completed, be the largest flying machine ever built. See more great photos of Hughes in the full gallery at Life.com.

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Howard Hughes inside his H-4 Hercules troop transport plane, the "Spruce Goose," 1947. 

J.R. EyermanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Howard Hughes' H-4 Hercules troop transport plane, the "Spruce Goose," parked in Long Beach Harbor, Calif., November 2, 1947.
J.R. EyermanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Howard Hughes' H-4 Hercules troop transport plane, the "Spruce Goose," on inaugural (and only) flight, Long Beach Harbor, Calif., November 2, 1947.
Allan Grant and J.R. EyermanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Finishing touches are put on the plywood plane two days before the run. Workmen are in rear part of main deck, which holds most of the passengers, Life wrote in 1947.
J.R. EyermanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Howard Hughes' H-4 Hercules troop transport plane, the "Spruce Goose," Long Beach Harbor, Calif., November 1947. Learn more about the plane and the man in the full gallery at Life.com.

Allan Grant and J.R. EyermanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Larger than life: Howard Hughes and the Spruce Goose

Industrialist, record-setting aviator, movie mogul, recluse — Howard Hughes was one of America's most accomplished and mysterious figures. When contracted in the '40s to build a military transport plane, he responded with the H-4 Hercules, a massive wooden plane famously dubbed the “Spruce Goose” which would, when completed, be the largest flying machine ever built. See more great photos of Hughes in the full gallery at Life.com.

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