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World of Wings The Very Best in Aviation
Hughes Racer Replica Photo Feature
Cottage Grove, OR.
August 24, 2002

Hughes Racer Replica
Update & Photo Report by: Wayne Sagar
Historic Hughes Racer To Appear At Nellis AFB
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After the record attempt at Las Vegas, Wright has no plans to rest on his laurels, indicating that he will make a run at Hughes’ Transcontinental Speed run of 7 hours 25 minutes, 25 seconds, set on January 19, 1937 between Los Angeles and New York (Newark Airport, NJ). During Hughes own 1937 attempt, he averaged 332 miles per hour in the H-1, over a 2,490 mile course, in what was a rarity for the time: a non-stop, cross-country flight.

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Revolutionary For Its Time

Designed by Howard Hughes and Richard Palmer solely for record-setting flight, and built in secrecy by Glenn Odekirk at the Hughes Aircraft Culver City, California facility, the H-1 served to influence aircraft design for years to come. Wartime aircraft like the Grumman F-6F Hellcat, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the Vultee BT-13 Trainer, and even the Yakolev 3 on the Allied side, featured improvements first pioneered by Hughes and the H-1. So too, did enemy aircraft, like the German Luftwaffe’s Focke Wulf 190, the Japan’s Zero-sen, Tony and Oscar.

Among the design improvements shared by the Hughes H-1, were these:

the inclusion of a retractable landing gear system, which reduced drag and increased speed and range for the aircraft;

all rivets and joints were created flush with the aircraft’s skin for improved aerodynamic flow - a feature that is standard on most aircraft today, whether piston or jet;

flathead and counter-sunk screws that were utilized on the H-1’s plywood wings to reduce drag, while increasing both lift and performance;

subtle, gracefully curving fillets installed between the fuselage and wing, which were necessary to stabilize the airflow, reduce drag, and prevent potentially dangerous eddying and tail buffeting;

ailerons designed to extend to fifteen degrees when the flaps are fully extended, allowing more lift along the full length of the wing during takeoff and landing;

a faired, enclosed cockpit, with an adjustable canopy windscreen to permit easy entry and exit from the cockpit;

…and a tightly fit, bell-shaped engine cowling to reduce airframe drag and improve cooling for the motor.

According to the National Air & Space Museum, the landing gear themselves were "typical of everything on the H-1 – the landing gear was so perfectly fitted that the gear fairings and doors are difficult to see (when retracted ) without looking closely."

The same is true with the H-1B replica, whose blueprints were drawn up by hands-on measurement of the original H-1 at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, visual observations, and photographs.

When Hughes donated the H-1 to the Smithsonian, he indicated simply, that the aircraft still had more in her. "It will go faster," said Hughes – a statement that has occupied the minds of Wright and his crew for many years.

The H-1B replica is already showing signs that it can go faster, according to Wright’s extensive examination of preliminary flight test results. Changes are being made to the propeller to accommodate greater speeds, and a pair of landing gear doors are in production that will ultimately streamline the aircraft as Hughes had it in 1935.

"Serial Number Two"

Wright’s replica Hughes H-1B took over four years to build, requiring over 35,000 man-hours in its construction, which incorporated three decades of Aviation design work. The H-1B is hand-crafted primarily of several different materials, including tightly processed dope and fabric control surfaces, tubular frame, buffed aluminum skin, and marine varnished wood.

So precise is the replica, that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has designated Wright’s H-1 to be "serial number two."

Howard Robard Hughes original aircraft, "serial number one," is currently on display at the National Air & Space Museum, The Mall, Washington, D.C. The aircraft was powered by a 700 horse power (at 8,500 feet) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior radial piston engine, which was capable of 1,000 horsepower during high-speed flight.

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Wright’s H-1B is also powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Jr, – which itself is based on the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine - and rebuilt by Team member Sam Thompson. Beyond Hughes’ original H-1 and Wright’s replica H-1B project, the same motor was used during the thirties and forties to power aircraft like the Boeing 247, the Bristol Bolingbroke, the Curtis Wright SBC3, the Fokker G-1, the Grumman F-2F and F-3F Biplane fighters, and the Douglas O-46 Observation plane.


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Wright Machine Tool Co. Hughes Racer Replica
Engine Start - Runup - Takeoff - Flyby
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