Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The Hughes Tool Co. ... Looking at Rotors

In 1947, Howard Hughes redirected the efforts of the Hughes Aircraft Co., still part of the Hughes Tool Co., away from fixed wing aircraft and towards the production of helicopters.

In 1948, he bought the partially completed XH-17 "flying crane" from the Kellett Aircraft Co. of Philadelphia, Pa. It had a 134-foot-diameter, two-bladed rotor and could lift more than 50,000 pounds.

The XH-17 first flew in October 1952. Flight testing continued for the next three years, producing useful knowledge about rotor dynamics and loads and about pressure jet propulsion.

In 1953, during a dispute with the U.S. government and in an effort to reduce his taxable income, Hughes established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He then separated the Hughes Aircraft Co. from the Hughes Tool Co. and made the aircraft company the sole asset of the medical institute. Hughes Electronics remained part of the aircraft company, and in 1961, two groups within Hughes Electronics formed their own subsidiary -- Hughes Space and Communications.

In 1955, Hughes split the helicopter operations unit from the Hughes Aircraft Co. and created the Hughes Tool Co. Aircraft Division, which began developing light military helicopters. By 1972, it was the helicopters division of Summa Corp. and, in 1983, became Hughes Helicopters Inc.

These complex arrangements led to further complications. The U.S. government prevented the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Hughes Aircraft Co.) and the Hughes Tool Co. Aircraft Division from doing any business with each other, although they shared joint office and factory buildings at the Hughes industrial complex in Culver City, Calif.

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