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On This Day: Howard Hughes flies around world in 91 hours

The eccentric billionaire aviator and film producer set a new flight record on this day in 1938

July 10: Eccentric billionaire aviator and film producer Howard Hughes set a new flight record on this day in 1938 after flying around the world in 91 hours.

Hughes, who until then was best known for winning a best director Oscar and dating Katherine Hepburn and a string of other movie stars, wowed the world with his feat.

A British Pathé newsreel captured the American flying over New York and landing at Paris, where he gave a speech after crossing the Atlantic in a record 16 hours.

Hughes, who built Houston’s first radio transmitter at the age of 11 and went on to found an aircraft design firm, took off again in the twin-engine Lockheed Super Electra.

He went on to touch down in three Russian cities – Moscow, Omsk and Yakutsk – before flying on to Fairbanks in Alaska, Minneapolis and back to New York.

The Big Apple honoured the producer of film hits such as Two Arabian Knights and Scarface with a ticker-tape parade down its 'Canyon of Heroes' in Lower Manhattan.

The celebrations came just two years after he was charged with negligent homicide when he killed pedestrian Gabriel Meyer while driving in Los Angeles.


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But a witness, who had previously said Hughes had swerved into a safety zone at a streetcar stop, changed his story at the subsequent inquest.

Hughes, who long claimed he was born on Christmas Eve 1905 despite a baptism record stating otherwise, is also well known for his eccentricity and bizarre behaviour.

Since the early 1930s, friends noted his obsession with peas – he had a special fork he used to sort them in order of size.

His obsessive-compulsive disorder became worse the older he got. He also developed a condition called allodynia in which any amount of touching became painful.

In 1947, a year after a near-fatal air crash, he spent four months in a darkened film screening room without leaving and consuming only chocolate, chicken, and milk.


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His bizarre behaviour continued when he moved into the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he often sat naked apart from a pink napkin covering his genitals.

He became obsessed with watching movies, notably the 1968 film Ice Station Zebra, which he saw 150 times on a continuous loop.

When he died at aged 70 in 1976, aboard a private jet, his 6ft 1in frame weighed just over six stone, he had extremely long nails and had to be identified by finger prints.

He was expected to leave his entire fortune to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which he had already gifted ownership of the Hughes Aircraft Company.

Instead, his $2.5billion estate was eventually split among 22 cousins, while the medical institute later sold his former aircraft firm to General Motors for $5.2billion.