The biggest plane ever built

I just saw The Aviator, director Martin Scorsese’s 2004 blockbuster with Leonardo DiCaprio as aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.

It’s a pretty entertaining movie that really gives you a glimpse into the airline industry’s early days–when Pan-American was pretty much the only business in town. The story does feel a little dragged out and pretty early on, you already get the picture that Hughes is a bit of a nut.

One of the more relevant part is his development of the “Spruce Goose”, or more properly, “The Hercule”, quite frankly the world’s largest airplane ever built. At five stories and more than a football field in wingspan, this wooden plane (that’s right, it was made from wood because aluminum was too scarce during WWII) still beats out the Airbus A380 in size.

So the next time you’re on an Airbus, or even a Boeing 747, imagine if that whole thing was made out of wood–and made fifty years earlier.

Here’s a great graphical comparison.