Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IN PARTS 1 AND 2, Howard Hughes and his H-1 set out to break a world speed record for land airplanes, 1935, and a cross-country record in 1937. Now in mid-2021, I am attracted to this handsome craft and construct a GMax version for my Microsoft Flight Simulator. 

My GMax rendering of the Hughes H-1 over a familiar Santa Ana, California, setting.

Part of GMax fun is researching, something I tend to continue doing throughout the project and beyond. My initial sources here were Wikipedia and several of my aviation books. Further on, I encountered Timothy Foote’s article in Smithsonian Magazine, February 1995, and one by Dennis Walker at the History Central website

Tidbits from both articles sent me back to the drawing board, er… computer screen. 

Mr. Hughes, Recycled. I had already built a GMax model of another Hughes aircraft, the H-4, popularly known as the Spruce Goose. He flew this giant flying boat, lifting off Los Angeles Harbor ever so briefly on November 2, 1947.

Hughes at the controls of my virtual H-4.

I included Howard in my GMax H-4 based on a 1947 photo. And, this time around with the H-1 racer, I simply recycled him.

Then I came upon a 1935 photo.  

Hughes and the H-1, 1935. Image from Smithsonian Magazine, February 1995.

Oops. Hughes didn’t have his mustache in 1935. Fortunately, GMax coding made it easy-peasy to give Howard a shave. 

A Gear Crank or? Not only Hughes but his craft called for modifications.

Above, my primary cockpit source, from Below, my GMax H-1 in progress.

Note the two hand cranks, one large, the other smaller, on the right of the cockpit. Sans definitive details, I chose GMax animations for the H-1’s landing gear and elevator trim, respectively.

It was only later that I read Timothy Foote’s comment: “The racer’s landing gear, the first ever to be raised and lowered by hydraulic pressure rather than cranked by hand, folded up into slots in the wings so exactly that even the outlines could scarcely be seen.”

My italics, not Foote’s. In retrospect, could the large crank have been a failsafe backup for the main gear? Indeed, the second could have been a mechanical backup for the tail skid. (Recall Hughes using the skid as a belly-landing anchor in the beet field.)

The H-1’s Span. I modeled dimensions of the H1 as residing in the National Air and Space Museum. When Hughes donated the craft to the Smithsonian in 1975, it retained its cross-country wingspan of 31 ft. 9 in. But Hughes had used the short-span 24 ft. 5 in. wings for the Santa Ana record-setting 352.39-mph average. 

My GMax Choice. I considered a GMax clipping of the wings, just as I clipped Howard’s mustache. But then I decided to keep my H-1 in cross-country configuration.

I’ve already flown the craft, virtually, of course, above Santa Ana at 307 kts. Maybe some time I’ll try for Burbank to Newark in 7 hours 28 minutes 25 seconds. Thankfully, I’d have the fltsim’s adjustable simulation rate. ds  

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  

One comment on “HUGHES H-1 RACER    PART 3

  1. phil
    July 10, 2021

    I’m sure those leather pads on the cockpit made it safer, in case of a mishap. 🙄

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