The Howard 500 was an executive transport aircraft produced in the United States during the early 1960s.
Design and development
During the 1950s and 60s, Howard Aero Inc had been remanufacturing military surplus Lockheed Lodestars and Lockheed Venturas for the executive market, but while the Howard 500 bore a strong resemblance to these aircraft, it was a substantially new design, and all 500s had completely new fuselages.
The only major components taken directly from its Lockheed forebears were the outer wing panels (from surplus Venturas) and undercarriage (from Harpoons). Howard purchased wing and fuselage jigs from Lockheed to use as patterns for jigs for the new aircraft. The fuselage differed from the Ventura's in being designed from the outset for pressurisation, and the wings were designed wet. The pressurisation system maintained a differential of 6.75 lb per square inch which was greater than any other prop or turboprop executive aircraft on the market at the time and maintained a sea level cabin pressure at up to 16,000 ft.
The engine chosen was a new, higher-power and lighter-weight version of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 that had been developed for the Douglas DC-6. Propeller hubs were taken from F4U Corsairs, four-blade propellers from DC-7s or Lockheed Constellations, and spinners from DC-7s.
Production and marketing
The prototype flew in September 1959, and certification was achieved in February 1963. By this time, however, the executive market was already dominated by turboprop aircraft, and although its performance was comparable to (or even better than) these new machines, and its price substantially lower, the Howard 500 could not effectively penetrate the market.
The Howard 500 could accommodate ten to fourteen passengers with a large window for each. Increased fuel tankage over the PV-2 Ventura gave a maximum range with full reserves of 2,600 miles. Maximum cruising speed was 350 mph at 21,000 ft. This exceptional performance for a piston engined executive aircraft unfortunately came just as the competing turbo prop designs were coming to the market, and this restricted sales of the type.
Commercial firms operating the aircraft included Republic Steel, Green Construction of Indiana, Pacific Petroleum of Canada, Northern Natural Gas Company and U.S. Metal Refining Company.17 Howard 500s were produced initially, with a further eight being converted from earlier PV-2s to virtually the same standard.
Of the 17 examples built to full Howard 500 standard, one restored aircraft remains flying in the United States in 2008 (construction number 500-105, registration N500HP) which was initially operated by the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America, and later by the Phillippi Equipment Company.
This machine is now owned by the Herrick Collection at Anoka airport, Minnesota, and was awarded Grand Champion at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 1997. It can be chartered by groups for flights within the USA.
Note: Dee Howard is not related to Benny Howard, racing pilot and aircraft designer of the Howard DGA aircraft series of two decades earlier.
Published in July 2009.
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