Near Los Angeles International Airport sits a historic 300,000 square foot building that once housed the world's largest airplane — the Hughes H-4 "Hercules," also known as the "Spruce Goose." Now over 70 years later, Google is reportedly eyeing the vacant space in order to house offices.
Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes bought the 380 acre site in 1940, and by 1943 Hughes Airport had a 9,600-foot unpaved runway. Hughes was heavily involved in designing planes for the military during World War II, thought he was also accused of profiteering. The Air Force ordered hundreds of planes from Hughes Aircraft, but none of them ever saw battle action.
The H-4 Hercules, or "Spruce Goose" was a flying boat, designed to carry up to 750 troops or two M4 Sherman tanks. The war ended before the plane could be put into service, but Hughes' persistence and insistence on perfection saw the project to completion. Because of restrictions on aluminum availability, the plane was built with wood. The plywood and resin bonding process used was one of the first adaptations of composite technology. This lead to the "Spruce Goose" moniker, which Hughes hated.
Hughes was not unlike Google, in the way he had his hands and wallet involved in various projects and experiments. He made most of his fortune in the oil tool business, which he inherited. In addition to the Spruce Goose, he designed several other aircraft while also serving as test pilot. It was a risky venture for one of the country's richest men. He suffered several plane crashes, including two that nearly killed him.
His most notable crash was was on his maiden flight with the Air Force reconnaissance prototype, the XF-11. He was flying the plane around Los Angeles, (where he also directed movies) and an oil leak caused the malfunction of the propellers. Losing altitude, Hughes eyed the golf course at the Los Angeles Country Club but fell short, and the plane plowed into three Beverly Hills houses. Hughes climbed out of the wreckage, but not before suffering third-degree burns, a collapsed lung, and several broken ribs.
Google is based in Mountain View, California, but has 70 offices in 40 countries around the world. The company says no two offices are alike, but they have similar themes including a social work style, games, and kitchens stocked with healthy snacks. Hughes Airport was closed in 1985, and many of its other buildings have been bought up as sound stages. YouTube also has a building on the same site. The historic hangar, called Building 15, is 750 feet long and seven stories high. It has also found cinematic uses over the years, including filming locations for Hollywood blockbusters Independence Day and Transformers. The "Spruce Goose" now sits in the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. The building is protected under the National Register of Historic Buildings.