It was the aircraft that nearly did it for Howard Hughes, and it was embroiled in a corruption scandal, but does his XF-11 deserve a better reputation?


The second Hughes XF-11 in flight off the coast of California during a sortie from Eglin Field. VIA GERALD H. BALZER

For William L. Durkin, a 30-year-old US Marine Corps master technical sergeant stationed at El Toro, California, 7 July 1946 had been a Sunday like many others. Spending it off-duty, he’d been visiting a girlfriend, Betty Gettle, in Beverly Hills. He was to end up as witness to an aircraft accident that attracted more attention than most — and as rescuer to one of the world’s most famous figures.

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