Howard 500: Flying art from 1960
Airplanes are functional sculpture, beautiful birds that join physics to mechanical flight. The Howard 500 that’s the focus of this memorial stood out among hundreds of other airplanes at one of AOPA’s regional fly-ins last summer, enough so that I featured it in a post here at Light Pixie Studio blog.
A moment in time
Its owners were aviators, inventors, and doctors, Forrest and Pamela Bird, and together they lovingly restored this magnificent airplane that Forrest Howard called the “best airplane I ever flew.” Before the restoration project began, it first had to cross Europe and the north Atlantic in late October 2012 to its new American home; the wingtip cameras record a magnificent world. Hear the throaty roar of its dual engines, sweet music to a pilot’s ears, in The Journey Home.
An Aviation Legend
This Howard 500 was in a hangar at the Anoka-Blaine airport near Minneapolis. I didn’t know the story when I saw and photographed it last summer. Two weeks before owner Dr. Forrest Morton Bird, whose invention of the modern medical respirator saved so many lives, died at the age of 94; read the link to be inspired by his life. Two months later his wife Dr. Pamela Riddle Bird died in the crash of her Cessna 182 in the Cabinet Mountains of Idaho.
I’m posting the photo of the Howard 500 again along with links to their stories because memorial flight is a touching way to honor any pilot. Howards are unique; only 17 were ever built. This one, the Birds’ Howard 500 with tail number N500LN, is one of only two still flying. Tailwheel airplanes are their own kind of special as are the pilots who learn to fly them well; (I’m working on it). The flight over the desert near Palm Springs CA touches my heart in so many ways. Watch the memorial flight here and you’ll see some of the why. [link repaired: if it didn’t work for you yesterday, it will now]