Pioneers in Aviation-
The Race to the Moon
Sponsored by- The Aerospace Legacy Foundation
"Pioneers In Aviation: The Race to the Moon is a new re-release of the EMMY-nominated PBS documentary series (by William Winship). The three-part, three-hour series explores the history of American aviation - from the Wright brothers to the Apollo moon landing, from early biplanes to spacecraft - and focuses on the lives and careers of aviation pioneers William Boeing, Donald Douglas, Dutch Kindelberger and James McDonnell. This revised and re-edited version features newly transferred historical footage from Boeing, Douglas, North American, and McDonnell archives, including new footage of President Kennedy's 1962 visit to McDonnell Aircraft to thank employees for their work on the space program. Experience America's aviation and aerospace history and gain a new perspective on these amazing people, aircraft, and events." Wiki
William Edward Boeing
William Edward Boeing
1881 - 1956
Perhaps the greatest visionary among the pioneers of the aviation industry, William Edward Boeing foresaw a national air transportation system a full decade before any of his contemporaries--and promptly set about creating it. In 1903, Boeing left Yale University for the Pacific Northwest to make his mark in the timber business. Emerging from the woods in 1908 with his fortune intact, he became smitten by the new science of aviation.
By 1916, William Boeing had founded his own company and had begun manufacturing seaplanes for the U.S. military. Following the aviation industry's collapse at the end of the First World War, Boeing kept his employees busy building furniture and speed boats. His perseverance paid off. By the late 1920s, Boeing was carrying thirty percent of the nation's airmail and the majority of U.S. airline passengers across the western United States. The company was no longer simply building planes. William Boeing was now running a thriving air transport service and maintaining a fleet of airplanes--along with a school for pilots and maintenance crews.
At the height of the Depression, the government ordered the aviation holding companies to break up--leaving Boeing's corporation in pieces and his vision of a national transport system dashed. In 1935, he sold all his stock in the company he had built and left the industry. As the '40s dawned, however, President Roosevelt called upon the captains of his aviation industry to become "the arsenal of Democracy"--and William Boeing returned to lend his counsel and expertise to American military and aviation leaders as they scrambled to prepare the country for World War II. DVD available here
Donald Wills Douglas
Donald Wills Douglas
1892 - 1981
In 1908, at the age of sixteen, Donald Douglas witnessed the Wright Brothers' famous U.S. Army Signal Corps demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia--an event that shaped his life. In the following year, as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, Douglas began building model planes and testing them secretly in the Academy armory. By 1912, he had transferred to M.I.T., becoming the country's first graduate student in aeronautical engineering. In 1915, he accepted the position of Chief Engineer at one of America's foremost aviation companies. By 1917, Donald Douglas had been appointed to direct America's aviation manufacturing effort in World War I. He was twenty-five years old.
Moving to Los Angeles in 1920, Donald Douglas founded the Douglas Aircraft Company. In 1924, U.S. Army aviators electrified the world as they piloted four Douglas World Cruisers in the first "Around-the-World-Flight." In the 1930s, Douglas produced the legendary DC-3, the most popular commercial airliner of the 20th Century. In the 1940s, as the recognized leader of American aviation manufacturers, Douglas organized a coalition of American plane builders--whose extraordinary production of warplanes ultimately gave the Allies air supremacy in World War II. In the 1950s, Douglas's DC-8 battled head-to-head with the Boeing 707 for leadership as the world's premier commercial jetliner. And in the 1960s, it was Douglas engineers who built the upper-stage of the massive Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
In a moving reminiscence, captured on film in the 1950's (see Episode I), Donald Douglas recounts the moment in 1908 when Orville Wright climbed into his fragile craft in the fading afternoon light, started the engine, and sent it down its wooden launching track. DVD available here
"The DC-3 was to become perhaps the most important airliner in history. It quickly established its reputation with many operators, including the military". Aviation-History
"First flown in 1935, the Douglas DC-3 became the most successful airliner in the formative years of air transportation, and was the first to fly profitably without government subsidy. More than 13,000 DC-3s, both civil and military versions, U.S. and foreign built, were produced. Many are still flying.
An enlarged variant of the popular 14-seat DC-2, the 21-seat DC-3 was comfortable by the standards of its time and very safe, because of its strong, multiple-spar wing and all-metal construction. The airlines liked it because it was reliable, inexpensive to operate, and therefore profitable. Pilots liked its stability, ease of handling, and excellent single-engine performance". Air & Space
"The first DC-3 built was the Douglas Sleeper Transport — also known as Skysleepers by airline customers — and it was the height of luxury. Fourteen plush seats in four main compartments could be folded in pairs to form seven berths, while seven more folded down from the cabin ceiling. The plane could accommodate 14 overnight passengers or 28 for shorter daytime flights. The first was delivered to American Airlines in June 1936, followed two months later by the first standard 21-passenger DC-3." Boeing
James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger
James Howard ("Dutch") Kindelberger
1895 - 1962
James Howard Kindelberger was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1895, the son of a German-American steelworker. In 10th grade, he quit school and followed his father into the Wheeling steel mills--then immediately began plotting his escape. Working by day and studying at night, Dutch managed to pass the entrance exams to Carnegie Tech. From 1917 to 1918, he served as a World War I pilot. At the end of the war, Kindelberger was hired as a draftsman for the Glenn L. Martin Company--and found himself working under the country's foremost aviation expert, Donald Douglas.
Forging a lifetime friendship with Donald Douglas, Kindelberger served as Vice President of Engineering at Douglas Aircraft--where he led the development of the DC-1 and DC-2. In 1934, North American Aviation asked him to take over as president--and Dutch rapidly built the company into one of the world' leading aircraft manufacturers. In the 1940s, North American Aviation produced two of the Second World War's most storied warplanes: the B-25 Mitchell bomber and the P-51 Mustang.
Following the war, Dutch built America's first swept-wing jet fighter, the legendary F-86 Sabre Jet--which overwhelmingly defeated the Russian-built MIGs as they battled in the skies over Korea. But it was Kindelberger's visionary foresight that distinguishes him as one of America's greatest aerospace pioneers. Reshaping his company's mission in the post-war era, Dutch pioneered U.S. rocket research in the 1950s. In 1958, North American Aviation rolled out the X-15 Rocket--the critical step between the domain of jet aviation and manned space flight. And in July 1969, under North American leadership, the Apollo Moon Landing was successfully achieved.
"Kindelberger wrangled a $1 million order from the British for trainer aircraft. Derivatives of this would eventually be manufactured in the United States as the T-6 Texan, and in Britain as the Harvard, and be adopted by nearly every Air Force on earth. The British were so impressed with the Harvard that they signed a contract with Kindelberger to produce 320 new-design fighters. Kindelberger's team rolled out the prototype of the P-51 Mustang only three months later. It went on to become the most successful fighter aircraft in history, and the cornerstone of American aerial dominance in World War II.
The British were so impressed with the Harvard that they asked North American to build 320 P-40 fighters. Kindelberger told them he could make a better design than that and completed the prototype of the legendary P-51 Mustang in four months. 42,000 aircraft were built by the company by the end of the war. It was the most successful fighter aircraft in history, and the cornerstone of American aerial dominance in World War II". More here...
James Smith "Mac" McDonnell
James Smith McDonnell
1899 - 1980
James Smith McDonnell was born in 1899, in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he delivered copies of the Arkansas Gazette on horseback every morning before school. In 1917, he enrolled at Princeton University--and promptly traded his money for a winter coat for his first ride with a barnstormer in a rickety biplane. His passion for aviation was kindled at that moment.
By 1925, McDonnell had earned a Masters Degree in aeronautical engineering from MIT and enlisted in the Army Air Service to learn how to fly. He was awarded his pilot's wings at Brooks Field, Texas, and was one of six volunteers to make the first airplane parachute jump--leaping off the wing of a DeHavilland biplane.
By 1939, James McDonnell was ready to start his own company. Settling down in St. Louis, he founded McDonnell Aircraft on the 2nd floor of a building at Lambert Field. Surrounding himself with first-class engineers, McDonnell proceeded to develop a series of the finest jet fighters in the world--with names like Phantom, Voodoo, and Banshee.
At the same time, McDonnell plowed more than 80% of his company's profits back into research & development. By the late 1950s, when NASA officials announced competitive bids for the first manned space capsule, McDonnell engineers already had one on the drawing boards. Mr. Mac personally oversaw every element of the Mercury and Gemini Space programs--superintending the critical early stages of America's Race to the Moon. DVD available here
"By the mid-1960s, McDonnell Aircraft Corp. was the largest employer in Missouri, and in 1967, it expanded its operation by merging with the largest employer in California, the Douglas Aircraft Co.
James S. McDonnell took over as chairman and chief executive officer of the McDonnell Douglas Corp. In 1971, his nephew, Sanford N. McDonnell, became president, and James S. McDonnell was chairman of the board and chief executive officer. His nephew took over as CEO in 1972. James Smith McDonnell remained chairman of the board of directors until his death on Aug. 22, 1980.
During his career, James Smith McDonnell received numerous awards and honorary degrees. His awards included the Robert Collier Trophy, the Guggenheim Medal, Founders Medal of the National Academy of Engineering and the NASA Public Service Award. He was remembered for his many civic duties, particularly his chairmanship of the United Nations Association of the United States. In 1958, the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. was the first organization in the world to celebrate United Nations Day as a paid holiday". From Boeing website. More here...
James Smith "Mac" McDonnell was an American aviator, engineer, and businessman. He was an aviation pioneer and founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, later McDonnell Douglas, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Del Linco International
A veteran of ten years in professional theatre before he made his first film, William Winship has won numerous awards as a playwright and stage director on both sides of the Atlantic--staging plays in Seattle, Edinburgh, and London. As a playwright, he received the prestigious Stanley Kramer Award, and served artistic residencies both in the U.S. and in England--serving as Seattle Arts Commission "Artist-in-Residence" in Seattle, and as "Playwright-in-Residence" at the Trinity Theatre in Kent.
As a screenwriter and film director, William Winship has garnered major awards at two international film festivals ("Silver Award" at the Victoria International Film Festival, and "2nd Place" at the Northwest Film Festival) for his first film, the 30-minute drama, WINDOWS--which was later aired on PBS. (WINDOWS was co-produced/directed/written/edited by William Winship and Seattle filmmaker Susan McNally. The screenplay for WINDOWS was adapted from Susan McNally's biographical short story, "Windows.")
Working as a documentary filmmaker, Winship was honored with a 2002 EMMY nomination as Writer/Director of the original 90-minute PBS documentary "PIONEERS IN AVIATION."
Mr. Winship holds a Masters Degree in English Literature from the University of Washington - where he taught Freshman English for three years.
Previews of Pioneers in Aviation The Race to the Moon
Episode 1- The Early Years
George Conrad Westervelt. "Westervelt became friends with Boeing and worked with him on seaplanes and help co-found what would become the Boeing Corporation. He left Pacific Aero Products after 1916 after being transferred to the east coast by the U.S. Navy. Following his retirement from the U.S. Navy Westervelt joined Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to work on the Curtiss NC float plane and later became vice-president with Curtiss-Wright." More here...
"Aviation was still a mystery to most Americans when businessman William Boeing and U.S. Navy engineer George Conrad Westervelt began building airplanes. Working out of Boeing's boathouse in Seattle, Washington, the two men and an assistant completed a plane, called the B & W, in June 1916. The next month, Boeing officially formed the Pacific Aero Products Company, which later became the Boeing Airplane Company.
When the U.S. Navy assigned Westervelt to the East Coast, Boeing hired Tsu Wong as his engineer. Wong's improvements to the B & W led to the Model C, Boeing's first commercial success. During World War I (1914-18), the company sold fifty Model C's to the U.S. government; its first international sale came when New Zealand bought two for its postal service. After the war, however, the demand for planes fell, and Boeing made furniture and small boats to stay in business.
Military sales picked up in the early 1920's, as did sales to the airmail industry. Boeing's Model 40A had a lightweight engine that let it carry twice as much mail as any other plane using the same amount of fuel. Boeing won government contracts to carry mail between Chicago, Illinois, and San Francisco, California, and it formed an airline company, Boeing Air Transport. After buying several other airlines, Boeing called its transport company United Air Lines". More here...
Episode 2- The War Years
Episode 3- The Race to the Moon
Race to the Moon
"It is 1961 and the Soviet Union has just launched the first man into space. President Kennedy responds by saying, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth."
Kennedy wants to show that America can defeat the Soviet Union in the space race. Both countries are sworn enemies fighting the Cold War, which will last for decades. Between 1963 and 1965, the Soviets launch the first woman and the first three-man crew, and do the first space walk. But the U.S. remains confident it can meet Kennedy's challenge". Learn more here...
Below- Bonus Footage
"The Space Race began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, by declaring they would also launch a satellite "in the near future". The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with the October 4, 1957 orbiting of Sputnik 1, and later beat the US to the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. The "race" peaked with the July 20, 1969 US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11. The USSR tried but failed crewed lunar missions, and eventually cancelled them and concentrated on Earth orbital space stations." Wiki
Below- The Families
The families of the Pioneers in Aviation were brought together in Washington, D.C., to honor the icons of American Aviation. William Boeing, James "Dutch" Kindelberger, Donald Douglas, James McDonnell, and the Wright brothers descendents were on hand to preview the PBS documentary, Pioneers in Avaition, honoring their illustrious family members. You can learn more about the documentary at http://www.pioneersinaviation.com/
Image- Pioneers in Aviation- The Race to the Moon event. The families of the Pioneers in Aviation were brought together in Washington, D.C., to honor the icons of American Aviation. William Boeing, James "Dutch" Kindelberger, Donald Douglas, James McDonnell, and the Wright brothers descendents were on hand to preview the PBS documentary, Pioneers in Avaition, honoring their illustrious family members. You can learn more about the documentary at http://www.pioneersinaviation.com/
More Pioneers in Aviation
The Wright Brothers
"Perhaps the most influential brothers in history, Wilbur and Orville Wright’s creative and technological genius revolutionized transportation on planet Earth. Originally from Dayton, Ohio the two owned a bicycle repair shop and spent their spare time working towards a dream of creating a powered and controlled flying machine. Realizing that dream on December 17, 1903, modern aviation was born. Throwing open the doors for travel, communication, and international commerce, the world was reconfigured as a global community." Official Licensing Site
"Since 1899, Wilbur and Orville Wright had been scientifically experimenting with the concepts of flight. They labored in relative obscurity, while the experiments of Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian were followed in the press and underwritten by the War Department. Yet Langley, as others before him, had failed to achieve powered flight. They relied on brute power to keep their theoretically stable machines aloft, sending along a hapless passenger and hoping for the best. It was the Wrights' genius and vision to see that humans would have to fly their machines, that the problems of flight could not be solved from the ground. In Wilbur's words, "It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill." With over a thousand glides from atop Big Kill Devil Hill, the Wrights made themselves the first true pilots. These flying skills were a crucial component of their invention. Before they ever attempted powered flight, the Wright brothers were masters of the air." National Park Service. More here...
James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle
"General James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle (1896-1993) was a pioneering pilot, aeronautical engineer, combat leader and military strategist whose career stretched from World War I to the height of the Cold War. He is most famous for leading a daring bombing raid over Tokyo in 1942, the first American attack on the Japanese mainland. Doolittle’s 16 planes dropped their bombs and then, lacking fuel to return to their carrier, flew on to crash-land in China and the Soviet Union." More here at History.com
"Doolittle was an adventurer at heart who spent time as a miner in California, a prizefighter, an aerial-show "aerobat" and a test pilot. He was the first aviator to fly cross-country in under 24 hours (in 1922) and the first to fly blind, using only his plane's instruments. He won numerous speed trophies, was awarded many medals, and commanded three Air Force groups during the war". More here...
"Glenn H. Curtiss, a young entrepreneur from Hammondsport, N.Y., was someone who craved speed. Racing bicycles in the local area led to a passion to go faster and, eventually, he produced lightweight, powerful engines that garnered the attention of "Captain" Thomas Baldwin. Baldwin, a former trapeze artist turned aviator, created the "California Arrow"a dirigible that became the first aircraft to complete a circuitous flight in 1904. Between 1908 and 1910, Curtiss helped build a number of aircraft and set several early aviation records, including the first long-distance public flight from Albany to Governors Island in New York using the Curtiss "Hudson Flyer" May 29, 1910 - distance of 134 miles.
As the Navy's interest in aviation heated up in the fall of 1910, Capt. Washington Irving Chambers, Officer in Charge of Aviation Matters for the Navy, arranged for a demonstration of flying an aircraft from the deck of a ship. November 14, 1910, Curtiss’ demonstration pilot, Eugene Ely flew the "Hudson Flyer" from a temporarily erected flight deck on the fo’c’sle (the forward part of a ship below the deck, traditionally used as the crew's living quarters) of USS Birmingham while at anchor in Chesapeake Bay. Just two months later, Ely demonstrated the ability to land on a ship as well, this time on a temporary deck erected on the fantail of Armored Cruiser USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay". Glenn Curtiss Museum . More here...
Loughead Brothers- Lockheed
"“Now I Was An Aviator”
On a Chicago ball field in December 1910, twenty-one-year-old Allan Haines Lockheed climbed into a spindly collection of light wood and fabric, cables and glue, bicycle wheels, and a 30-horsepower engine. Many had tried to get this Curtiss pusher biplane to gain enough speed to alight. Despite the fact that Lockheed had never piloted an aircraft, he applied his mechanical know-how to tinker with the engine. He offered three-to-one odds to his fellow mechanics that he would be the first to get the plane to fly, but no one took the wager. Anyone betting against Lockheed would have lost." More here...
"12 April 1918: Allan and Malcolm Loughead, owners of the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Santa Barbara, California, set speed and distance records as they flew their twin-engine, ten-place F-1 flying boat from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The F-1 traveled 211 miles in 3 hours, 1 minute.
Designed by friend and employee John Knudson (“Jack”) Northrop, and built in a garage on State Street, the F-1 was launched on a wooden ramp at West Beach.
The airplane was intended for the U.S. Navy, but the end of World War I ended the requirement for new airplanes." More here...
"The F-1 was powered by two right-hand tractor, water-cooled, normally-aspirated 909.22-cubic-inch-displacement (14.899 liters) Hall-Scott A-5-a single-overhead cam (SOHC) vertical inline six-cylinder engines with a compression ratio of 4.6:1. The A-5-a was a direct-drive engine. It was rated at 150 horsepower and produced 165 horsepower at 1,475 r.p.m. The engines were mounted on steel struts between the upper and lower wings. The engines turned two-bladed, fixed pitch propellers with a diameter of 8 feet, 8 inches ( meters) The Hall-Scott A-5-a was 5 feet, 2.5 inches (1.588 meters) long, 2 feet, inches (0.610 meters) wide and 3 feet, 7.875 inches (1.114 meters) high. It weighed 595 pounds (270 kilograms).
The F-1 had a cruise speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 84 miles per hour (135 kilometers per hour)." More here...
"The P-38 Lightning by Lockheed might be one of the most impressive aircrafts in the world of aviation. With its unconventional twin tail, it was commonly used during the Pacific War. The twin Allison engines with 1,600 horsepower make the P-38 the perfect warbird for long distances due to its ability to fly higher and faster than other fighters built around the same time. Between 1941 and 1945 more than 10,000 aircraft were produced. Today, the P-38 is a very rare model and appears to be priceless. It comes as no surprise that no efforts and costs were spared to save and restore those treasures." The Flying Bulls
"At the beginning of World War II, Lockheed – under the guidance of Clarence (Kelly) Johnson, who is considered one of the best-known American aircraft designers – answered a specification for an interceptor by submitting the P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, a twin-engined, twin-boom design. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. It filled ground-attack, air-to-air, and even strategic bombing roles in all theaters of the war in which the United States operated. The P-38 was responsible for shooting down more Japanese aircraft than any other U.S. Army Air Forces type during the war; it is particularly famous for being the aircraft type that shot down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's airplane." Wiki 17 Things You Never Knew About The P-38 Lightning
Days of Future Passed-
"SR-72: How the Mad Scientists at Skunk Works are Building a Mach 6 Plane" More here...
"The Air Force nearly achieved hypersonic flight half a century ago with the X-20 DynaSoar, the great might-have-been link between the Silverbird, the Space Shuttle and the SR-72. Designed to soar into space atop a Titan missile, orbit like a space capsule and land like a fighter plane, the X-20 fulfilled the Silverbird dream only to be killed off by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
Space Shuttle engineers in the 1970s relied on X-20 research in designing their spaceship. Today the recently-retired Space Shuttle is perhaps the most familiar hypersonic vehicle in the world. The Space Shuttles soared into space at Mach 23 before leaving the atmosphere—and flew “like bricks with wings“ at hypersonic speeds during their fiery descents". Courtesy- The National Interest
"On July 10, 1938, Howard Hughes completed a flight around the world in just 91 hours (3 days, 19 hours), beating the previous record by more than four hours. Taking off from New York City, he continued to Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Anchorage, Minneapolis, and continued to New York City. For this flight he did not fly an aircraft of his own design but a Lockheed Super Electra (a twin-engine transport with a four-man crew) fitted with all of the latest radio and navigational equipment. Hughes wanted the flight to be a triumph of technology, illustrating that safe, long-distance air travel was possible." YouTube
"Hughes wasn't merely an eccentric billionaire, but a genuinely accomplished aviator. He won the 1934 All-American Air Meet in Miami with a speed record of 352 mph in the experimental military plane the "H-1". Hughes also piloted around the world in 1938 with a small crew, and broke Lindbergh's New York to Paris record in half with a time of 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes.
In 1932 Hughes formed Hughes Aircraft, which produced several inventions in aerospace technology. Howard was presented the Congressional Gold Medal in 1939 for his achievements in advancing science in aviation.
One of his greatest inventions was the H-4 Hercules, a military air-boat plane. Unfortunately, the plane flew only once for a mile just over the water's surface but never got fully airborne. Howard was widely ridiculed and the plane was nicknamed "The Spruce Goose"." The Balance
"Hughes' wealth and power caught the attention of TWA president Jack Frye, who had been struggling to acquire new planes to stay competitive. Frye's influence led Hughes to purchase majority ownership, triggering a major turnaround for the company. Hughes himself directed ventures with Lockheed, including one of the most revolutionary planes, the Constellation (aka "Connie") for TWA. The plane was well liked for its attractive appearance and record speeds and helped TWA become competitive again." The Balance
"The Hughes XF-11 was designed to be a fast, long-range reconnaissance aircraft for the U.S. Army. The XF-11 was twin-engine. twin-boom, all-metal monoplane with a pressurized cockpit and tricycle landing gear. The first prototype featured a pair of four-bladed contra-rotating propellers. This unusual design increased performance and stability but added a great deal of mechanical complexity.
The Army originally ordered 100 XF-11s, but the order was canceled at the end of World War II, leaving Hughes with two prototypes.
Howard Hughes was flying the first prototype when it crashed on July 7, 1946, on its maiden flight. An oil leak caused the right engine propeller controls to malfunction, so the rear propeller reversed its pitch, making the aircraft difficult to control. Hughes tried to make an emergency landing on the Los Angeles Country Club’s golf course, but about 300 yards short of the course, the aircraft suddenly lost altitude and clipped three houses. The third house was completely destroyed by the fire resulting from the crash, and Hughes was badly hurt". Boeing- More here
XF-11 RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT
"Howard Hughes almost lost his life in the summer of 1946, when his XF-11 aircraft crashed in Beverly Hills. After grazing three homes, the plane crash landed and burst into flames, as Martin Scorsese so brilliantly recreated in The Aviator, above. Hughes, however, was ultimately saved by a man named William S. Durkin-- a US Marine who pulled the aviator away from the wreckage and brought him to safety.
Hughes apparently offered Durkin a monetary reward in the wake of the crash, but, according to Durkin's daughter, was spurned on several occasions. He did, however, send a heartfelt letter of appreciation, which Letters of Note published last year. Below is an excerpt, dated December 23, 1946."
"While making films, Hughes was also involved in aviation. In 1932 he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City, California. On September 12, 1935, in an airplane of his own design, he established the world’s landplane speed record of 352.46 miles (567.23 km) per hour. On January 19, 1937, in the same craft, he averaged 332 miles per hour in lowering the transcontinental flight-time record to 7 hours 28 minutes. Flying a Lockheed 14, he circled Earth in a record 91 hours 14 minutes in July 1938. The following year Hughes bought a share of Trans World Airlines (TWA), and he eventually acquired 78 percent of its stock". More here...