The Largest Sea Plane Ever Built Was The?
A sea plane is simply a powered, fixed-wing aircraft that can take off and land on water. The vast majority of sea planes in the world are petite affairs, classified as “floatplanes”, which are usually small civilian and commercial aircraft that have pontoon-like runners under them in place of traditional landing gear. These light craft are best known for their role in ferrying people in and out of locations like remote hunting lodges.
When you move beyond the realm of floatplanes, you get into the territory of “flying boats”, which as the name implies, don’t land on small pontoon-like supports, but feature a large fuselage that doubles as a boat hull. If the boat lands on water and the body of the plane becomes the body of the boat, you’re dealing with a flying boat, and not a floatplane.
While there have been flying boats of varying degrees of “larger” over the years, there is one particular flying boat that is a record holder in more than one way: the Hughes H-4 Hercules, “Spruce Goose”. The Spruce Goose—nicknamed such by critics at the time because of the plane’s nearly “all wood” body design that was a result of World War II metal shortages and concerns about weight—was a leviathan-sized marvel.
Although created under contract with the U.S. military and intended to be produced and deployed as part of the war effort, the project dragged on long enough that only the prototype of the aircraft was ever constructed and flown. The Spruce Goose had the largest wingspan, 320 feet 11 inches, of any aircraft at the time of its construction. It was also the largest transport aircraft on the planet with an unloaded weight of 250,000 pounds and a payload capacity of 150,000 pounds. Although planes with (barely) wider wings and larger payload capacities have been built, the Spruce Goose remains the world’s largest flying boat by a wide margin.
If you’d like to see the wooden behemoth in person, you can do so by visiting McMinnville, Oregon. There, since 1993, the craft has been on permanent display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.
Image courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration/Wikipedia.