Dee Howard's last major twin piston design came in 1959 with the Howard 500, often confused with their earlier creations the Super Ventura and Howard 350. The one big difference was that the Howard 500 was pressurised - something which more and more business users were requiring. Pressurisation allowed the aircraft a maximum altitude of 35,000ft, though flights with passengers were restricted to 25,000ft. Despite looking very similar to the 350, the 500 was virtually a new aircraft. The only true Ventura parts were the outer wings salvaged mainly from ex-SAAF examples. The Howard 500 used the more robust Harpoon under-carriage units.

Pitched against the Grumman Gulfstream I which had taken its first flight on 14th August 1958 the Howard 500's maximum cruising speed of 338 knots was only 10 slower than the turbo-prop Gulf I, the 500 could stay in the air for over 8.5 hours and cover about 2,800 miles (4,506 km), over 200 miles (322 km) more than the Gulf I. Using the same power-plants as the DC-6, Pratt & Whitney R.2800s, only with huge 11ft (3.3m), 4 blade props which were cut down DC-7 blades and with DC-7 spinners performance was impressive. With its fat, low-slung fuselage (there was 6'2" (1.87 m) head room in the 27ft (8.2 m)long cabin) it looked on the ground like a beached whale, but once in the air it's fuel efficiency and consequent long range made it a serious competitor to the Gulf I. But certification came too late on 20th February 1963, over three years after the first flight of the prototype in September 1959. This was mainly due to the 500's FAA 4b certification licence (transport aircraft) which was tedious and thorough. This certificate allowed the aircraft to operate in virtually all weather conditions, but many operators never experienced for example, heavy ice condition, therefore operated their aircraft on a slightly different certificate. Many operated on a "Limited" category certificate (i.e. unable to carry passengers or cargo for profit) initially until brought up to 4b and then numerous restrictions were lifted.

By 1963 Grumman already had a very healthy looking order book for its Gulf I and the first Jetstars and Sabreliners were being delivered to corporate owners, Bill Lear was working on the Lear Jet 23 also the Jet Commander, amongst others, was near certification. Ironically Lear asked Dee Howard in 1962 to go into partnership to design the Lear Jet 23 but Howard considered it to be too small and wanted to finish his Howard 500 development and certification. Howard's sales brochure of the time made many proud boasts about the Howard 500: its ability to fly at over 16,000ft (4,864 m) while retaining sea level pressurisation, its roomy interior and how it could depart New York, climb to 22,000ft (6,688 m) , cruise at 300 knots, descend to 10,000ft (3,040 m) so as to encounter more favourable winds en route to Dallas. Over Dallas it could hold for a quarter of an hour, divert to Tulsa, hold for a further 15 minutes and then fly to Wichita where on landing it would still have one hours fuel remaining! Total flying time of seven hours 40 minutes! Given that some mission profile the (unnamed) turbo prop aircraft used for comparison fell out of the sky somewhere close to Dallas. Much play was made too of the turbo prop's $800,000 price tag - a new Gulf I would have cost $ three quarters of a million in 1959 - the price tag of the Howard 500 was something in the region of $580,000.

But in Dee Howard's own admission the 500 was certified ten years too late as the market was turning to turbines and jets. Pistons were no match for the turbine's smoothness and reliability. 22 Howard 500s were built, by 2000 only one remains in regular service.

Today there are few of the original 'executive' Lockheed twins remaining. Nearest to home was Duncan Baker's Howard 500 N500LN (the registration reportedly standing for "Lady of the Night") based at Exeter, kept in excellent condition, its tyres were very familiar to the Exeter tarmac and the aircraft hardly flew. That is until it was sold to TP Universal Exports International LLC = Phillippi Equipment. And she was seen at Exeter in March 2010 engines running. . . by 2011 she was at Coventry under the care of Air Atlantique. In the USA one can fare better with two Howard 500s based at Eagan, MN, with Phillippi Equipment. N500HP was in 1986 painted in a green, black and yellow colour scheme and fitted with the latest digital avionics and a new passenger interior. This is the airworthy example of Phillippi Equipment's fleet, the other 500 is N137U which was recovered from Florida having previously spent many years in storage in Canada. A decision has yet to be made on the future of this aircraft, whether to restore it to airworthy condition or to use it for spares for N500HP. Bruce Stevenson, one of N500HP's former owners, might have been tempted to acquire an aircraft such as a King Air or a small jet to fly him from his base in Oregan to his house in Idaho but chose the Howard 500 - as Bruce's chief pilot David Cummings said you really need something seriously cool to show up on the ramp with and the Howard 500 was it! Dave Cummings stayed with N500HP when it was acquired by it's next owners The Born Foundation moving the aircaft and his home from Oregon to Minneasota. Later Born sold it to Phillippi Equipment of Eagan, MN. Incidentally N500HP carries interesting "nose art" depicting a Howard 500 dive bombing a Gulfstream IV.

For some hands-on Howard 500 flying why not go to: HOWARD 500 FLIGHT SIM some great shots and an interesting account of flying the big fella from Dave Cummings. And finally you might want to visit here for some further beautiful air-to-air photography of N500HP:

N500LN returned State Side in October 2012 to join Toni Phillippi’s other Howard 500 in Minnesota see this stunning clip:  If you want to see N500HP in a similar style then take a look at this:

The MIGHTY Howard 500

© Michael Zoeller 2002-2013

  1. BulletAccommodation:10/14 pax

  2. BulletPower Plant: 2 x P&W R-2800 CB-17s

  3. BulletRange: 2600 miles (4,185 km)

  4. BulletSpan: 70ft 4in (21.44m)

  5. BulletLength: 58ft 5.5in (17.82m)

  6. BulletCruise Speed: 350mph (563 kmh)

For full histories of any Howard 500 aircraft please contact me directly via e-mail

Howard 500 stats

N500HP TP Universal Exports International, Eagan, MN