Hughes Aircraft Company, Electronics and Helicopter Company
Hughes Aircraft Company
The Hughes Aircraft Company was formed in 1932 as a division of the Hughes Tool Company to funnel money into Howard's intense interest in aviation, beginning with a fleet of airplanes purchased for the movie "Hells Angels".
Hughes recognized the opportunity and need to build faster and more efficient aircraft for military defense and air transportation. His 1938 around the world flight was a triumph of technology in both aviation and communications. During the war years, aviation and flight was the obvious focus and challenge; however looming silently and parallel to this endeavor was communications and electronics.
Hughes, always the visionary, hired quality engineering talent many of whom desired to work for Howard Hughes just because of who he was and his personal achievements. Hughes continued to expand the financial and technical capabilities of the company, recognizing the need for electronics in weaponry, guidance, missiles, radar systems and more. World War II ended and the Cold War began. Hughes had the cash flow and the vision to invest, and it paid off…… BIG TIME!
During the 1960’s and 70’s, Hughes Aircraft was second to none in research and development; and garnered massive government contracts. Some seven divisions were created producing radar systems, missiles, satellites, microelectronics, ground support and thousands of component parts. It could be said that nothing leaves the bounds of this earth without the Hughes genius represented. The first satellite into orbit, the first vehicle on the Moon, both were built by the Hughes Aircraft Company.
The Hughes Aircraft Company was sold to General Motors for $4 billion, the proceeds of which funded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase Maryland, and is now the wealthiest charitable trust in the world with assets of nearly $13 billion. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute annually funds upwards of three quarters of $1 billion in grants for medical research and education. This is in accordance to a will written by the young 21 year-old Hughes which states in part ““the objects and purposes of which shall be the prosecution of scientific research…(It) shall be devoted to the search for and development of the highest scientific methods for the prevention and treatment of diseases.”
The Hughes Helicopter company fulfilled Hughes lifelong passion to mass produce a flying machine. The “Hughey's" as they were nicknamed were used extensively in the Vietnam War and for commercial purposes since the 1960s.
Hughes pleaded, before his death, to his longtime aviation confidant Jack Real to leave the Lockheed Aircraft Company and reorganize his trouble helicopter company. Real was looking forward to retirement, but out of loyalty to Hughes he accepted the challenge. In 1971, Mr. Real brought with him his AAH Apache helicopter design and systematically won all of the competitive phases of the multi million dollar Army contract. The Hughes AAH Apache, a flying gun the platform, changed the way our military conducts warfare operations and has performed with deadly accuracy in both Iraqi wars. Hughes Helicopters was sold to McDonnell Douglas in 1979 for $500 million.