On This Day…November 2nd.
Howard Hughes’ ‘Spruce Goose’ flew for the first and only time today in 1947. The Hercules (H4) is the largest flying boat ever built, and up until 2018 had the largest wingspan of any aircraft that has ever flown. Nicknamed the Spruce Goose as it was made almost entirely of birch , the aircraft remains in good condition to this day and is now displayed at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. The flight on the 2nd November lasted 26 seconds, gaining an altitude of 70 ft (21 m), and a speed of 135 miles per hour for about one mile.
Incomplete Unryu-class carrier Kasagi, in the Sasebo Bay, Japan, 2 Nov 1945. The first three Unryū-class aircraft carriers were laid down in 1942 and construction of a further three began in ’43. In the end, only three, the Unryū, Amagi, and Katsuragi were finished and the other three carriers, Kasagi (above), Aso and Ikoma were abandoned in 1945.
The Russian ‘Night Witches’ during the battle of the Caucasus Nov 2nd. Flying old 1928 vintage Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, these women flew (mainly at night) to their German position targets, cut their engines, and glided to the bomb release point with only wind noise left to reveal their location. As the aircraft could only carry two bombs at a time, they’d often fly 6 or 8 sorties in a night. They did have they had the advantage of a maximum speed that was lower than the stall speed of the Bf 109 and the Fw 190, meaning German pilots found them difficult to shoot down. German soldiers christened them the Night Witches as they likened the sound of the gliding aircraft to broomsticks flying in the night. The pilots carried no parachutes until 1944.
Nadia Popova, the last of the Night Witches, died in 2013, aged 91 years.