A very readable volume about the Grand Central Air Terminal is this book:

Underwood, John. 1984. Madcaps, Millionaires and 'Mose'. Heritage Press, Glendale, CA. 144pp.


the register


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If you came of age in the 20th century, you could hardly miss hearing or reading about Howard Hughes. Even in the 21st century, a major motion picture was released in 2004 entitled "The Aviator," which dramatized his life. For most people, his reputation precedes him, and he was indeed a monumental character during the Golden Age of flight and beyond. Today, unfortunately, he's generally remembered mostly for his eccentricities, rather than his considerable successes and achievements in aviation and most of his other business endeavors. If you don't know about Hughes, please read through this page and the links there from for an overview. Another biographical source is the State of Texas Historical Association.

Howard Hughes, Passport Photograph, July 11, 1924 (Source: ancestry.com)


Howard Hughes is signed twice in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register during 1931. His first visit was on Sunday, May 17, 1931 at 6:30PM. The second landing was on Monday, June 1, 1931 at 6:03PM. At both landings he flew the Boeing 100 Special NC247K. He owned this aircraft, normally a military model. But Hughes managed to purchase and modify it for air racing. The New York Times, January 15,1934 documents his victory in a 20-mile free-for-all race at the Miami All-American Air Meet in Florida. He averaged 185.707MPH over the course.

Hughes also landed once at Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA sometime between April 27-29, 1929 flying the Waco ASO NC3574. An extensively detailed biography, including unpublished photos and information and U.S. Census data, is posted at the Clover Field site at the link. The photograph, right, is from his 1924 passport application. It was taken just a couple of years before he began his aviation career.

Given the frequent flights in many aircraft Hughes clearly made during the 1930s, it's frustrating to think he probably landed other times at Santa Monica, or at Glenview, or maybe even at Tucson, but he just didn't take the time to sign our Registers. Without his pilot log books, we'll never know. I have seen a couple of online references to the existence (but not the location) of his pilot log books. Does anyone KNOW where they might be?

During the 1930s, Hughes turned to aircraft manufacturing. Two of his aircraft endure to this day, both in museums. The first, the Hughes Model H-1A Racer, NR258Y, is shown below, date & location unknown. The source is the San Diego Aerospace Museum (SDAM) Flickr Stream.

The Hughes H-1A Racer, NR258Y, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)
The Hughes H-1 Racer, NR258Y, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)

Hughes flew his H-1A to a land plane speed record in September, 1935 (over 350MPH). He never flew the H-1 again. It was retired to a quonset hut in southern California after only 42 hours of flight time. This original H-1 was donated by Hughes in 1975 and rests on display today at the National Air & Space Museum (object ID: A19750840000).

A beautiful replica of the H-1A was built and flown first in 2002 and exhibited at Oskosh, WI in 2003. Unfortunately, this spectacular airplane crashed in 2003 after a propeller failure over Yellowstone Park. Its owner and builder, Jim Wright, was killed. A home video of the replica racer is at the link. Your Webmaster viewed the replica at Oshkosh in 2003 just days before it crashed. Below are two detailed photographs of the very beautiful work that went into building the replica. First is a detail of the flap attach points with the split flap in the down position.

Replica H-1, Flap Detail, Oshkosh, WI, August, 2003 (Source: Webmaster)
Replica H-1, Flap Detail, Oshkosh, WI, August, 2003 (Source: Webmaster)

Note the fine woodwork and sheet metal details. Below, a view of the spar. The copper tape is for electrical conductivity in the event of a lightning strike.

Replica H-1, Spar Detail, Oshkosh, WI, August, 2003 (Source: Webmaster)
Replica H-1, Spar Detail, Oshkosh, WI, August, 2003 (Source: Webmaster)

Hughes also landed once at Oxnard Field, Albuquerque, NM on August 5, 1935 flying his Beech Staggerwing NC12583. A Google search yields 3,890,000 hits for Howard Hughes as of the upload date of this page. Hughes flew with Transport pilot cerificate T4223 (which was later changed to 80 just because he wanted it that way).

Please direct your browser to the Clover Field Web site via the link above. There you will find more details about his movies, family and lifestyle.