When is a Ventura not a Ventura? When it’s a Howard 500 !
Tags: 'old technology', 10 to 14 passengers, 16000 feet, 350 mph cruising speed, 6.75 lbs/sq in differential, A20 Havoc, AirBase Coventry, aircraft, attack aircraft, Aviation, B-25 Mitchell, Baker Petroleum Ltd, bomb aimer, C-46, C-47, capacious fuselage, Chance-Vought, corporate transport, Corsair, Coventry, cross-sectional area, Douglas, Douglas DC-6, Douglas DC-7, Ducan Baker, Duncan Baker, Durrell Unger 'Dee' Howard, Eagan, Ed Swearingen, England, executive transport, executives, Exeter Airport, Exeter International Airport, F4U, ferry flight, first generation turboprop executive aircraft, fledgling USAF, fuselage, fuselage jigs, Great Britain, Grumman Gulfstream 1, gun turrets, Harpoon, Howard 350, Howard 400, Howard 500, Howard Aero Inc., Howard Eldorado 700, IATA - EXT, ICAO - EGTE, increased tankage, inner wing, Lockheed, Lockheed Model 18, Lockheed Model 18 civil transport, luxury interior, middle management, Minnesota, museum, North American, Oakland Centaurus, outer wing panels, patrol Bomber, Pratt & Whitney R-2800, pressurized fuselage, propellers, PV-1, PV-2, R-2800, RAF, Royal Air Force, sales breakthrough, San Antonio, Second World War, South African Air Force, Spartan Ventura, spinners, Super Harpoon, Super Ventura, Texas, TP Universal Exports International LLC, transatlantic, Transcontinental range, turboprop, twin-engined medium bomber, undercarriage, USA, USAF, Ventura, Ventura GR.5, VIP transport, warbird, warbirds, wet wing, wing jigs, WW2
The end of World War Two saw the perfect storm in corporate America. An economy swollen with profits from the war, executives and middle management used to moving swiftly from plant to plant, division to division across the country and lots of returning pilots, many anxious to continue flying – for a living, this time. There lacked but one thing, the fast passenger aircraft to act as corporate transports. The demobilised C-47 (see blog entry) was too slow, the C-46 (see blog entry) was too large and not many were available. Companies turned to the ranks of the now redundant twin-engined medium bomber and attack aircraft.
There were problems with many of these ‘warbirds’. As well as being hung around with such excressences as gun turrets and bomb aimer’s positions, their fuselages all had one characteristic that there was no getting around. They were of comparatively small cross-sectional area – to reduce drag and keep the speed as high as possible. Consequently, although the A-20 Havoc (see blog) was converted in small numbers as a company transport, and the B-25 Mitchell (see blog) performed the same function as a VIP transport for the fledgling USAF and some civilian owners, even when all the operational equipment was removed, there still was not enough room. The solution lay with the Lockheed Ventura/Harpoon series of patrol bombers, which had capacious fuselages due to their ancestor, the Lockheed Model 18 civil transport.
Several conversions of these Lockheed twins were made post-war including the Oakland Centaurus and the Spartan Ventura, but the best-known exponent of Ventura conversions was Howard Aero Inc. of San Antonio, Texas. Durrell Unger ‘Dee’ Howard, along with the well-known aircraft designer Ed Swearingen, made a series of modifications (mainly surrounding increased tankage, luxury interiors and heavy-duty undercarriage from PV-1 aircraft); from 1955 onwards, these included the Super Ventura, Super Harpoon, Howard 350 and Howard 400. However, it wasn’t until Howard bought the fuselage and wing jigs from Lockheed, that a definative airframe emerged. The Howard 500 was a new-built aircraft, with an all new, pressurized fuselage (+6.75lb/sq in, giving sea-level pressure at 16,000 ft), executive interior for between 10 and 14 passengers, non-stop Transcontinental range, and a cruising speed of 350 mph. Twenty two Howard 500s were built, plus eight converted from PV-2 Harpoons to almost the same standard as the Howard 500. Modifications included Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engines, similar to those on the Douglas DC-6, propeller hubs from the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair, propellers and spinners from a Douglas DC-7, outer wing panels from a Venture, and a new, ‘wet’, inner wing.
N500LN, seen here at ‘Airbase’ Coventry, is one of only two Howard 500s left in the world, the other, N500HP being based in Minnesota. It was converted from a Ventura GR.V which saw service with the RAF (FP579) and SAAF (6417) after being handed over by the USN, for whom it had been built as a PV-1. Formerly owned by Duncan Baker of Baker Petroleum Ltd., and based at Exeter International Airport (IATA – EXT; ICAO – EGTE), it rarely flew until delivered to Coventry on May 18, 2010. It has now been completely overhauled for its new U.S. owner, TP Universal Exports International LLC of Eagan, Minnesota. It is waiting for its Transatlantic ferry flight.
Sadly, the Howard 500 emerged at about the same time as the first generation turboprop executive aircraft, the Grumman Gulfstream 1, and despite attempts to refine it further – a single Howard Eldorado 700 was built – it was based on ‘old technology’, and never made a sales breakthrough.