When is a Ventura not a Ventura? When it’s a Howard 500 !

By: shortfinals

Apr 16 2012

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, British Isles, England, Great Britain, military, Museums, RAF, Royal Air Force, Second World War, United States, warbird


Focal Length:32mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

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.




5 comments on “When is a Ventura not a Ventura? When it’s a Howard 500 !”

  1. Great point about obtaining the jigs … no serious modification work without the jigs. Many expert workers must also have been required I would imagine. Once again, thanks for detailed information and clear photo on an aircraft I had not known of 🙂


  2. Thank you, Joe! I had previously seen this aircraft only once before (at a UK air event) and was very impressed by its performance. However, I think you NEEDED to own an oil company to run it!


  3. All Howard 500 aircraft were built between March of 1963 and October of 1964. Outer wing panels were of a completely new design and not from the Ventura. The Howard 500 was a brand new airplane with a brand type certificate, there are two 500’s one is the Howard 500 and the other a Howard 500-4b which was to be used on a 135 type certificate for charter ops in the US. The first 500 flew in September of 1959. The 500 is a performance aircraft with unequaled range and speed for it’s size. The 500 can easily get to 340 KTAS @ 28,000 feet with fuel burn of slightly less than 200 gallons/hour. No Cessna Citation can do that. There were never any Howard 500 aircraft converted from PV-2 Harpoon, the only component on that airplane are the highly modified main gear legs that support a 35,000 pound airplane. Dee Howard did modify one PV-2 into the Howard Super Harpoon..


  4. The 500 didn’t make “sales’ because grumman got the feds to hold up Dee and Ed’s C of A until 1964, although the Bird was ready in 1959. When they finally relinquished and typed it, they added that altitude be restricted to 25.000 w/ PAX and 35,000 w/ cargo. The Bird WILL live @ 41,000. Show me any turbo-prop that capable. At 41,000, my bet is the bird will pass the VNE of 500 mph…just step ‘er down a bit. I rode on a 350 conversion in severe weather in 1967….it was like taking LSD…holy cammoli….and judging from that ride at 8500 ft. on basically the same P & W 2800’s ( 500 had two stage blowers), I’m sure the 500 would give a G-5 a run and keep up with a Lear 35/31 and an old school Citation would not come close. This airplane is packed w/ testorone. i know the man w/# 17, the last 500 built. I never heard of a 700, so please enlighten me. bladecutter


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