As a new reviewer for this great site, I was given the task of checking out a little known aircraft, the Howard 500, which to be honest I had never heard of. I am quite pleased this was my 1st task. Let’s see why.
Well this beauty was manufactured in 1959 but with the competition of the new emerging jet market, only 22 were made and as of 2000, only 1 is seeing regular flying, N500HP.
Luckily that one is in Eagan, Minnesota. I was able to get some excellent research data, primarily from the chief pilot who flies her, David Cummings. I will be basing my review upon Mr. Cummings daily routine with this A/C. So let’s take a look at this package.
OK, we start with the program install, the file is an .EXE file….click and ….bam you’re done! How cool is that?
So we got to Eagan, Minnesota and fly from KMSP to KLJF. Parked at the ramp, simply follow the provided “Howard 500” checklist in your kneeboard and your banging away 36 massive cylinders in the Pratt & Whitney R-2800. These babies produce some serious power which is reflected in the sims characteristics. As you taxi out to the active it’s a bit tricky with all the TQ produced, but controlling the tail wheel with differential braking and power management, you can overcome it in no time. Also, there is a file explaining the release of the tail-wheel from locked to free wheeling position, we kept it locked, and it was no big deal.
Keep working the checklist from taxi, prep for take-off to take-off and you’ll do fine. Don’t forget to engage the A.D.I. (Anti Detonation Injection) system. This will give you the extra 400 HP you’ll need to get this 35,000 lbs. tail-dragger going, which by the way is thoroughly discussed by Mr. Cummings and the sims works as advertised.
Now comes the fun part, during the take-off (T/O) roll, the TQ becomes a huge factor, requiring a lot of right rudder, because the nose wants to go off to the left and take you off the runway. Well Mr. Cummings does warn us about this, so we were ready for it. If you can pull it off, split the throttles (E +1) then (E + 2) and give an extra 20 inches of manifold pressure to the left engine. This will keep you straight and works as advertised.
Get your take-off speed to around 100-105 knots and the plane wants to fly. After T/O start to clean the A/C. Gear up, flaps up and trimming to hold about 160 knots on climb-out. This should give you around 1500-2000 fpm climb rate depending on winds, weight and CG.
Mr. Cummings mentions 3 climb profiles, to 9,000, 16,000 and 22,000 feet. Oh did I forget to mention, the 500 is pressurized, not bad for a luxury exec jet in ’59 with a price tag of $800,000. Pressurization allowed the aircraft a maximum altitude of 35,000 ft, though flights with passengers were restricted to 25,000 ft. Anyway, we climbed all 3 profiles, and the sim performed right there true to the chief pilots description. The only thing I found a discrepancy with at this point was the cruise profile. We should have been able to maintain 200-210 knots with 32” Manifold and 2200 RPM. Well at those numbers the airplane was stalling. But when we went to 55” and 2500 RPM we achieved 184 knots straight and level and a fuel flow of 90 GPM per engine, the fuel flow was as advertised by the real deal. Now switch to the aft tanks and enjoyed the scenery, snow over Minnesota and I’m in 104 degree weather in the south….I’ll take the 104.
Checking out the cabin during cruise, comparing numbers, looking around and what a joy.
You can move from left seat to right seat with the press of a button on the dash by all other standard MS icons for GPS, Radio tower etc.
Just too pretty….ain’t it?
There is also a magnification icon for the Captains instrumentation. The A/C doesn’t have auto-pilot, but it’s so stable a trim here or there every once in a while and your just cruising along holding altitude and airspeed. The cabin pressure is holding at 2500 ft, again as advertised for the real deal. The VC is very nice, and gauges are as close to the original as was possible to make. I liked that part of it. It seems like every corporate jet you D/L use the same LJ45 dash and gauges. Or the same goes with the big guys, but not the N500HP. Even the nose art on this plane is a true replica of the 500HP’s nose art.
Checkout the reflection of the nacelle on the nose of the airplane. The detail on the brake system. The anti-icing strips on the props Just great!!!!
Ok, well it’s time to get ‘er down. We’re 50 miles out of KLJF. We’re going to shoot the VOR 31 approach. So you come back in the manifold pressure about 1-2 inches. Remember it’s 30 below up there and you can’t just pull these things back to idle, gotta baby it nice and easy till you get in warmer air. Now here is where I had another minor issue with the numbers. This is a “slick” plane and as a result loves going fast and hard to slow down. In a descent you are supposed to get to 320 knots ground speed, except at 276 we were over-speeding. No problem just lift that nose a bit, slow her down, 1 notch of flaps and there you go. And again just follow the “Howard 500” checklist in your kneeboard for descent and approach.
Once set-up on final, slowing to 190 for main gears, the next number is 147 knots for full flaps and she’ll slow right down to 135. Hold about 800 fpm descent on final and try to keep the CG aft during descent and landing. So work your fuel tank selector and leave some in the back towards the end of the flight. Don’t worry you have plenty in this plane. The Howard 500 holds nearly 8 hours of gas and can fly 2600 miles. Quite impressive.
So now that you have to stop this 30,000 lbs, plane, it’s nice that the desired speed for landing is 105 knots coming over the fence, it makes it much more convenient to stop. Here we go with the tricky stuff again. The Howard 500 is designed to land power-on. So we did just that and she greased right on in on the mains. Now kill the power, open the cowls and leave the flaps down. Try to hold that tail off as long as possible and don’t forget to keep flying the plane. Just because you’re on terra firma doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. Steering with rudder, holding tail off ‘til last moment. Once the speed starts to diminish you can work the brakes for heading and stopping. Work the brakes by getting on ‘em and then let-off. This is not necessary at larger airports with longer runways. Just let her run-out to a nice slow speed and save your brake pads.
Hey, there were only 22 of these things made. I don’t imagine brake pads are just sitting on the shelf. We were able to touch-down the tail at 20 knots and braking dist/time was minimal.
Again the taxi is working the differential braking and throttle, or again split the throttles and apply more right eng power when turning left and vice-versa. Go thru that checklist, shut ‘er down and go get a beer at the FBO.
The other 2 profiles we flew, night and summer were just fine. Although in the summer the planes performance was a bit less than that of the other 2 profiles. Obviously, this was due to the heat and the resulting thinner air.
This is an all around fun sim to fly, the experienced pilot will enjoy the need for finesse and the newer flyer will be able to handle her just fine with a little patience and practice.
Of worthy mention is the painstaking labor the design team went thru to make this representation as close to the real N500HP as possible. The flight characteristics, based upon the numbers given by the real 500HP’s chief pilot, are very very nice. Don’t expect the response of an F15, or speed of one either. No auto pilot also means you have to really fly this baby the whole time. And again, the design team did a great job, the real deal doesn’t have auto either.
The small details are most impressive for those looking for realism in their sim flight. The propellers are feathered prior to crank. As you crank they go to fly position. The landing lights are hidden under the wing and fully articulate when activated. When you turn them off, the bulb goes off first, then you can still see the hardware stowing nice and smooth up into the wing. The paint-job is an excellent representation of the real Howard 500 in Eagan, Minnesota. And these are just a few of the points I noticed.
Improvements for this model would consist of making use of the “dummy” switches on the panels that move but are not connected to anything. Increase the performance for summer flying, if possible. Adjust the climb and cruise performance to be more realistic regarding manifold pressure settings and RPM.
I would have to say this was quite a pleasure to be taken back in time, when there was incredible style and performance in our wonderful machines.
You know very well if you were parking next to a Gulfstream V in Augusta during the Masters, people would be checking you out with a smile on their face. Hey, why not? The Howard 500 simply put is Sexy Baby…………Yeaaa.