The Early Years: 1927-1938

Hughes Aircraft Co. ... First Flights

Howard R. Hughes was a famous industrialist, a successful motion picture entrepreneur and a talented pilot. When his father died in 1924, the 19-year-old Hughes inherited the established and successful Hughes Tool Co. For several years, he financed his movie-making endeavors with the proceeds from the tool company.

All of Hughes aviation businesses trace their origins to the tool company's Aircraft Development Group, formed in 1934 to develop the record-breaking H-1 Racer. That group became the Hughes Aircraft Co. in 1936, operating separately from, but still part of, the tool company.

The single-engine H-1 (Hughes-1) "Silver Bullet" included retractable landing gear and other aeronautic advances such as countersunk screws and flat rivets to reduce wind resistance.

In 1935, Hughes flew the H-1 at 352.39 miles per hour, setting a world speed record. A year later, Hughes flew a Northrop Gamma 2G from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J., in 9 hours, 27 minutes, establishing a record time for transcontinental flight. In 1937 he beat that record, flying a modified H-1 the same distance in 7 hours, 28 minutes. In 1938, flying a Lockheed twin-engine Model 14 Super Electra, Hughes set a new record for flying around the world in 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes.

In 1939, Hughes acquired 77 percent of the shares of Transcontinental and Western Air, and TWA asked Lockheed to build the Constellation and ordered 40 to be built. By the time World War II ended, 15 Constellations had been built.

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