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Aviation Pioneer: Howard Hughes


In recent pop-culture, there have been many references to the fictional enigmatic billionaire Tony Stark of the “Iron Man” movie series and Elon Musk. But before Elon Musk there was aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, who would spark the interest and fascination of the American people. The following paper will discuss and summarize the significant events in the life of Howard Hughes that immortalized him as one of the greatest pioneering aviation figures in history.

Aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (n.d.) once stated, “I want to be remembered for only one thing: my contribution to aviation.” The pioneering aviation exploits of the late Howard Hughes are vast and varied and cannot be denied, from his founding of the Hughes Aircraft Company to his accomplishments as an aviator and producer of aircraft. Howard Hughes is truly one of the aviation world’s greatest pioneers.

Howard Hughes started his flying career at the age of 14 in 1920 when he took his first flight in a Curtiss flying boat, and on January 7, 1928 received his pilots license.

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Hughes would go on to trophies accolades for his flying exploits, from setting land speed records flying the Hughes built “Silver Bullet” the world’s fastest plane at the time to setting long-distance speed records such as the flight from Los Angeles to New Jersey in 1937. Howard Hughes even flew around the world to set a record in 1938 of 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes.

As an inventor and producer of aircraft, Howard Hughes is credited with founding the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932, after which he is credited with developing the first retractable landing gear on aircraft, the invention of flushed rivets that streamlined airplane design then and into the future.

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Other Hughes inventions such as his work with oxygen for pilots during high-altitude flying were instrumental in commercial passenger aviation. The most famous of Howard Hughes’s inventions was the creation of the Hercules HK-1 (Spruce Goose), although the flight only lasted 60 seconds the flight permanently cemented Hughes into aviation folklore.

For the United States military, Howard Hughes would go on to build systems that would be revolutionary in nature and ensure America’s innovation in aviation. Howard Hughes designed such things such as chute feeds for 50-caliber machine guns, developed the F-102 interceptor along with the weapons control system used in the F-102, invents and manufactured “air to air missiles” for the military, and in the 1960’s he pioneered and produced the unmanned satellite prototypes, that cleared the way for the satellites of today.

Howard Hughes was finally inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973, cementing his place in aviation history and leaving a tremendous legacy in the area of aviation that is hard to match to this day.


  1. Hughes, H. (n.d.) Howard Hughes Quotes and Sayings – Page 1. Retrieved from
  2. Keats, J. (1972). Howard Hughes. New York: Random House.
  3. Mullis, S. (2012). Which real-life billionaire is Tony Stark (Iron Man) based on? Retrieved from

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Aviation Pioneer: Howard Hughes. (2020, Nov 18). Retrieved from

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