Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (December 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976) was an American aviator, engineer, industrialist, film producer, film director, philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He gained prominence from the late 1920s as a maverick film producer, making big-budget and often controversial films like Hell's Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw. Hughes was one of the most influential aviators in history: he set multiple world air-speed records, built the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 "Hercules" (better known to history as the "Spruce Goose") aircraft, and acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines. Hughes is also remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder. His legacy is maintained through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Near-fatal crash of the XF-11
Hughes was involved in a near-fatal aircraft accident on July 7, 1946, while piloting the experimental U.S. Army Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, the XF-11, over Los Angeles. An oil leak caused one of the contra-rotating propellers to reverse pitch, causing the aircraft to yaw sharply. Hughes tried to save the craft by landing it on the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, but seconds before he could reach his attempted destination, the XF-11 started to drop dramatically and crashed in the Beverly Hills neighborhood surrounding the country club.
When the XF-11 finally skidded to a halt after hitting three houses, the fuel tanks exploded, setting fire to the aircraft and a nearby home at 808 North Whittier Drive, owned by Lt Col. Charles E. Meyer. Hughes managed to pull himself out of the flaming wreckage but lay beside the aircraft until he was rescued by Marine Master Sergeant William L. Durkin, who happened to be in the area visiting friends. Hughes sustained significant injuries in the crash; including a crushed collar bone, multiple cracked ribs, crushed chest with collapsed left lung, shifting his heart to the right side of the chest cavity, and numerous third-degree burns.
However, Hughes was proud that his mind was still working. As he lay in his hospital bed, he decided that he did not like the design of the bed. He called in plant engineers to design a "tailor-made" bed, equipped with hot and cold running water, built in six sections, and operated by 30 electric motors, with push-button adjustments.
Many attribute his long-term addiction to opiates to his use of morphine as a painkiller during his convalescence. The trademark mustache he wore afterward was meant to cover a scar on his upper lip resulting from the accident.