Howard Hughes was a dashing millionaire who’d just turned 32 years old when he set a new speed record for a transcontinental flight on 19 January 1937.
He made it sound like a whim. He told the New York Times that he’d made the decision to try for a new record after overhearing someone else say they were going to try and break his old record. Hughes had set a record the previous year, in January of 1936, by flying across the United States in 9 hours and 25 minutes.
Howard Hughes hopped into his monoplane in Los Angeles and took off at 2:14 in the morning. Much to the surprise of the air control tower in Newark, New Jersey, he arrived there at 12:43 in the afternoon, 7 hours and 28 minutes later.
Hughes landed safely and climbed out of his airplane, telling the small crowd, “I flew at 14,000 feet most of the way, with my highest speed 370 miles an hour. I used about 200 of the 280-gallong load. I am very tired — a bit shaky.”
So there he was, a 32 year-old Oscar-winner and owner of factories and oil companies, having traveled further and faster than any other person on the planet.
Later on, many years later, he went nuts, of course.
Read about him in the Who2 biography of Howard Hughes.