A famous flying boat and remote-control lawn rebates

By Michael Raffety


I always enjoy reading Larry Weitzman’s writeup of the Capital Airshow. He always takes great photos as well. This year his mention of the C-5 Super Galaxy, with its wingspan of 223 feet and length of 247 feet caught my atterntion.

Before visiting my aunt and cousins in Portland, Ore. We stayed overnight in McMinnville with the express purpose of seeing the Spruce Goose. I had kept a news clipping of it on the side of our refrigerator for a long time. So, I wasn’t going to travel from Bend, Ore., to Portland without stopping to see the Spruce Goose.

Just to set this up against the length and width of America’s largest jest transport, the C-5, here are the particulars of  Hughes H-1K Flying Boat:

Its wingspan is 319 feet 11 inches. It is 218 feet long. It is shorter than the C-5 Galaxy but the wings are longer to accommodate the two pontoons and the eight Pratt & Whitney radial engines.

Hughes made the flying boat out of birch because he wasn’t allowed to use material, such as aluminum that was critical to the war effort. Howard Hughes didn’t complete the airplane until after the war, taking its one and only flight Nov. 2, 1947.

He kept it in storage until his death in 1976. A fellow name Jack Wrather then bought it and moved it to a domed hangar in Long Beach. In 1988 the Walt Disney Co. bought the Wrather Corporation. Obviously, it didn’t wind up in Disneyland. Instead Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum bought what Henry Kaiser had dubbed the H-4 and the press had mistakenly called it  “The Spruce Goose,” a nickname that has stuck to the flying boat.

How did it get to McMinnville? It was taken apart and barged up the coast, down the Columbia River to the Willamette River in Portland where it waited for the water to get low enough so it could pass under the bridges of Portland. Then it was trucked 7.5 miles to McMinnville.

You have to have practically a fisheye lens to get the whole plane or at least one whole side of the plane in a photo. There is a large model of the flying boat near entrance after passing through the ticket booth. That’s the only way to get the whole airplane in one photo. It also is great for selfies.

To get in the cockpit you have to make a reservation early in the day. That includes a picture of yourself in the pilot’s seat with a Howard Hughes-like fedora looking back from the seat like in the picture of Howard Hughes. I didn’t get into the cockpit, but my wife bought me a nice refrigerator magnet of Howard Hughes looking back from the pilot’s seat with his fedora.

Lawn rebates

With $24 million for lawn rebates and $6 million for toilet upgrades, the state is not working through local water districts. Instead it is handling it all itself through the Department of Water Resources. Starting with the chief press officer I got referred deeper into the department Tuesday, Oct. 13, to find somebody who could answer a few basic questions about the state’s lawn rebate program.

The state’s rebate administrator has received 5,372 lawn replacement applications as of Oct. 12, according to Kent Frame of DWR. The average lawn removed and changed up for water wise landscaping is 1,200 square feet, he said.  That calculates to more than $6 million the state will rebate once the application process is completed. The total amount of square footage converted will not be known until all 5,372 applications are completed, Frame said.

Most of the grants have been awarded in Central and Northern California. At $2 a square foot that is the same as the huge Metropolitan Water District has been giving out. Because of the MWD program most of Southern California is not eligible for the state’s program, Frame said, adding ,“Eligible participating water agencies customers include all those who have not offered a $2 or greater a square foot rebate.”

Half of the $24 million of the lawn removal funds “is targeted for residents in disadvantaged communities in areas with depleted groundwater basins,” according to the Aug. 12 DWR press release.

Currently there are five applications approved from El Dorado County, Frame informed me Wednesday.

And how does DWR confirm a project has been completed? The homeowner submits five photos to show the project has been completed in accordance with the 14 terms and conditions of the turf replacement program.


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