The Story of Howard Hughes: Filmmaker and Aircraft Manufacturer

On December 24 in the year 1905, the most successful filmmaker-turned-aircraft manufacturer was born in Texas, United States of America. His name was Howard Robard Hughes Jr., the founder of Hughes Aircraft Corporation.

Howard Hughes Jr.
Howard Hughes Jr. (Credit:

Howard Hughes Jr. was the son and heir of a wealthy inventor who founded a tool company. At age 11, he invented wireless radio transmitter and a year later, he created a motorized bicycle. He learned how to fly an aircraft at 14. He attended the Rice University in Houston but transferred later to California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. At 19, his father passed away, leaving him his family’s wealth.

In 1927, Howard produced Everybody’s Acting, his first film followed by Two Arabian Knights the next year. Both were financial successes and many more films were produced in the following decade. He purchased the RKO companies which included radio stations, movie theaters, studios and film production (RKO Pictures). In 1954, he sold the company to General Tire and Rubber Company for $25 million.

As a pilot and aircraft enthusiast, Howard formed the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. It went to produce aircraft for the US Air Force during and after World War II. It also manufactured helicopters and later guided missiles. The company was sold to General Motors in 1985 which in turn sold it to Raytheon in 1997. In 1939, Howard purchased the Trans World Airline (TWA) and expanded it after the Second World War to become the second largest airline with international operation. It was later sold in the 1960s.

In 1968, Howard became the largest landlord in Las Vegas. He emerged as owner of several hotels, resorts, and media outlets. After selling the tool division, Hughes Tool Company was renamed Summa Corporation. When it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972, it was renamed Howard Hughes Corporation.

Howard Hughes Jr. died of kidney failure in 1976 at the age of 70. He married twice but had no children. Having died intestate, his fortune worth $2.5 billion was divided among 22 cousins. Perhaps his most important legacy was the Howard Hughes Medical Institute which he founded in 1953. It is a non-profit medical research organization focused on biological and medical research in the United States.


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