Sherman Mills Fairchild - Duramold Aircraft - Spruce Goose

The largest aircraft of duramold construction was the Spruce Goose

Duramold aircraft
Clark Duramold F-46 Fairchild - Duramold aircraft was built with a molded wooden fuselage. NASA

In the late 1930s, aircraft of composite materials began to appear made of plastic-impregnated wood materials called duramold. The most famous and largest aircraft of duramold construction was the eight-engine Howard Hughes flying boat dubbed the Spruce Goose.

Sherman Mills Fairchild

"Shelly" Fairchild loved aerial photography. By 1925, Fairchild created a group of aircraft companies for aerial photography, the manufacture of airframes, and power plants.
Fairchild also bought two materials processing companies: the Duramold Aircraft Corporation in 1937, and the Al-Fin Corporation in 1941. Fairchild started to research the forming and bonding processes in aircraft manufacture.

According to the Fairchild Corporation, "In the mid-1930s, Fairchild pioneered the application of composite structures to airframe design and production - duramold. The adhesive bonding processes and techniques are still followed in the manufacture of composite structures today. Fairchild also developed the first nine-lens mapping camera for the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1936."

Duramold Aircraft

The duramold aircraft was an aircraft built with a molded wooden fuselage. Duramold was originally developed by Colonel V. E. Clark, famous for the Clark Y airfoil. The Duramold Aircraft Company became a subsidiary of the Fairchild Corporation, the photo to the right depicts the F-46 designation for Fairchild carried by the craft.

Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose was not the first airplane to use duramold material.
Many small planes had been built using duramold during the early thirties by the Fairchild Aviation.
The Spruce Goose was originally conceived by Henry J. Kaiser, a steel maker and builder of Liberty ships. The aircraft was designed, constructed, and engineered by Howard Hughes and his staff. The Spruce Goose's exterior was created with material using the duramold process of laminating plywood and it was the largest plane ever to fly. In 1947, Millionaire Howard Hughes became the first person to pilot the Spruce Goose.

Spruce Goose

The ribs and frame of the Spruce Goose were made out of birch wood, the plane was covered with duramold which involved laminating and molding thin sheets of veneer together. The Spruce Goose had almost no nails or screws. The duramold process used layers of 1/32 inch wood veneer, laid in alternating grain direction, bonded with glue and steam-shaped. Duramold made Spruce Goose was both strong and light-weight for its size.

Howard Hughes Becomes The First Person To Fly The Spruce Goose

In 1905, Howard Hughes was born in Houston, Texas. Hughes inherited the patent rights to an oil tool drill made by the Hughes Tool Company. A millionaire, Howard Hughes both inherited and made his own money. An adventurous soul, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Corporation and loved to pilot planes and break aviation records. After flying across America, Howard Hughes turned to movie making and formed his own motion picture studio.