The original Hughes H-1 is a racing aircraft built by Hughes Aircraft in 1935. It set a world airspeed record and a transcontinental speed record across the United States.

During his work on his movie Hells Angels, Howard Hughes  employed Glenn Odekick  to maintain the fleet of over 100 aircraft used in the production. The two men shared a common interest in aviation and hatched a plan to build a record -beating aircraft. The aircraft was given many names, but is commonly known as the H-1. It was the first aircraft model produced by the Hughes Aircraft company.

Streamlining was a paramount design criterion resulting in “one of the cleanest and most elegant aircraft designs ever built.”- Howard Hughes.

Due to two different roles being envisioned for the racing aircraft, a set of short-span wings for air racing and speed records and a set of “long” wings for cross-country racing were prepared.

It was fitted with a Pratt & Whitney R-1535 twin-row 14-cylinder radial engine of 1,535 cubic inches (25.15 l), which although originally rated at 700 horsepower (522 kW) and was fine-tuned to put out over 1,000 horsepower (750 kW).

Hughes piloted the first flight on 13 September 1935 at Martin Field near Santa Ana, California, and promptly broke the world landplane speed record clocking 352.39 mph (567.12 km/h) averaged over four timed passes. 

The aircraft was loaded with a minimal amount of fuel to keep the weight down, and Hughes was not supposed to make the 3rd and 4th passes, exhausting the fuel supply. Hughes managed to crash-land in a beet field south of Santa Ana, California without serious damage to either himself or the H-1.

The original H-1 down in a field after crash landing piloted by Howard Hughes himself.

Hughes set a new transcontinental speed record by flying non-stop from Los Angeles to New York in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds. He smashed his own previous record of 9 hours, 27 minutes by two hours. His average speed over the flight was 322 miles per hour (518 km/h).

The H-1 Racer was the last aircraft built by a private individual to set the world speed record; most aircraft to hold the honour since have been military designs.

Jim Wright’s replica displayed at Oshkosh 2003, days before his tragic accident.

REPLICA CRASH: NTSB has released the final report on the tragic accident that killed a great pilot and aircraft builder, Jim Wright, forced down by mechanical difficulties just hours after leaving the annual event.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT: On August 4, 2003, at approximately 1835 mountain daylight time, a Wright, Hughes 1-B amateur-built airplane, N258Y, was destroyed following an uncontrolled descent to the terrain in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The private pilot, the sole occupant in the airplane, was fatally injured. 

The malfunction of propeller counterweights is blamed for the crash of the Wright Hughes H-1.

Leave a Reply