Mr Mulligan - $4.95
The Howard DGA-6 was a pioneer racing plane, nicknamed Mister Mulligan. The plane was designed and developed by Ben Howard and Gordon Israel, who later became an engineer for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. Mister Mulligan was designed to fly the entire length of the Bendix race nonstop and at high altitude.
Benny Howard's Mr Mulligan
Benny Howard's classic "Mr. Mulligan": a hefty, powerful four-place strut-braced, high wing machine that didn't look a whole lot like a 1930's racer . . . unless you were looking at it from dead astern, while trying hopelessly to catch up with it.
This very important racer opened the market for speedy, 1930s transports and any executive or wealthy business-man worth his salt, had to own one.
Harold Neumann was talking in his relaxed, friendly Midwestern way about the airplane that amazed the aviation world during one very busy week, back in 1935. During what has since become known as the "Benny Howard National Air Races."...
Harold Neumann was talking in his relaxed, friendly Midwestern way about the airplane that amazed the aviation world during one very busy week, back in 1935. During what has since become known as the "Benny Howard National Air Races."
It was really the Cleveland Air Races, but the way Howard and his airplanes won all the big races, it was no wonder he got credit for the whole show.
That "big Monocoupe" was, in actuality, Howard's classic "Mr. Mulligan", a hefty, powerful four-place strut-braced, high-wing machine that didn't look a whole lot like a 1930's racer . . . unless you were looking at it from dead astern, while trying hopelessly to catch up with it.
"It just seemed that that year was the Benny Howard Neumann year. No matter what we did, we lucked out on it. The year before, that was a bad year," Neumann admitted. And he was right, for 1934 wasn't much of a year for "Mr. Mulligan" or anything else Benny Howard tried. Neumann headed for California and the start of the 1934 Bendix Transcontinental Race, only to be forced down in Nevada and wipe out the landing gear of the brand new airplane. Neumann managed to salvage fourth place in the Thompson Trophy Race and second place in the Greve Race in Howard's little "Ike", but they had wanted all the marbles.
The 1935 Bendix Race was really the beginning. "Mr. Mulligan" was designed very much for such 2,000-mile grinds, having plenty of power and fuel, as well as oxygen for the vital high-altitude flying. Howard, himself, was pilot, with engineer Gordon Israel as co-pilot. After their single re-fueling stop at Kansas City, they sped on to Cleveland in an elapsed time of 8 hours, 33 minutes and 16.3 seconds and an average speed of 238.704 mph. It was the best speed anyone had made in a Bendix Race since Jimmy Haizlip had won it in a Wedell-Williams Racer in 1932. Haizlip wasn't in it this time, but Roscoe Turner was, flying a Wedell-Williams with almost double the horsepower.
Turner had taken off much later than Howard, and so the race would have to be decided on elapsed time. After an interminable wait, Turner sped across the finish line in his gold #57 . . . in the time of 8 hours, 33 minutes and 39.8 seconds! Just 23~/2 seconds later and .2 mph slower than Howard. The great Bendix Trophy went to Benny Howard and to "Mr. Mulligan".
In its first real test, the big white airplane had certainly done its job well, but much more was soon to be demanded of it. The all-time classic event of American air racing was the Thompson Trophy Race, finale of the long National Air Races program. Howard wanted the stately bronze trophy for his own.
Others wanted it, too. Mainly, Roscoe Turner. Edged out in the Bendix, he had no chance for an unprecedented double win, but he had taken the Thompson in 1934 and wanted very much to become the first man to win it twice. Turner had plenty of experience and a fine airplane with more power than any other in the race. Very much the dark horse was Steve Wittman, a veteran of the lower horsepower classes who was about to enter a completely new airplane of his own design, the Curtisspowered "Bonzo".
"Mr. Mulligan's" pilot was to be Harold Neumann, and here's how he remembers that big day. "It was a hot day and we got out on the line, engines running' and waiting' for the start. Then they kept stalling us. They kept holding us there, on the line. I don't know how long we sat there, but it got very hot in the cabin . . . engine running all the time, head temperatures going wild. I would guess we were out there 20 or 30 minutes but it seemed like hours, because we were all keyed up to get going, and we were just sitting' there.
"Then, when we finally got going', I had hopes of being the first around the (home) pylon, because "Mulligan" was pretty fast on the getaway. When we got the starting flag, why, I had the brakes set, of course, and was turning' the engine up pretty high. And when the flag dropped, I released the brakes and shoved up on my throttle and the engine just about quit! It misfired and shook, and I was about to just give up right at that time . . . just pull off the throttle and say, 'Well, that's that!'
"Everybody was on their way and I had started rolling, so I thought, 'well, I'll at least see how much power I can use and then make a decision whether I can take off.' So, I set up the power to where it wasn't shaking so bad, and nursed it off the ground. According to the movies I have, I was the last off the ground, and everybody left me.
"I finally staggered into the air. I was gambling on the (chance) that it was sparkplug's fouled up, because they'd been working on the engine all morning, changing cylinders and what not, because I'd burnt out a cylinder that morning, qualifying. It hadn't been test-flown or anything. I figured it was sparkplug's because of sitting' on the ground that long. So, it was a test flight for the first lap or two . . . just to see how well the engine would run and if it would clear out. And it finally did, after a couple of laps, started smoothing out. So I just set a higher power setting and just let 'er go, and I started ketchin' up to the slower planes and passing them."
Neumann passed his friend (and, later, fellow TWA captain) Roger Don Rae flying the "San Franciscan", Joe Jacobson in Benny Howard's "Mike", and Marion McKeen in the bright red "Miss Los Angeles". "And I finally got up to Steve Wittman," Neumann continued, "and he was in second place. When I'd pull up alongside of him, why, he'd add enough speed to pull away from me. Well, I just left her alone, 'cause I was happy that I was doing' as well as I was, with that poor start. Finally, Steve let me go by, so I figured he was havin' trouble.
"So, I was in second place. I saw Roscoe (Turner) 'way up there, and I figured there was no use trying' to catch him. It was getting close to the finish and I was in second place, so I was very happy. I came around the home pylon and I saw Roscoe landing. Of course, I didn't see his pull-out and smoke . . . that he had engine trouble. It flashed through my mind, 'well, is this the end of the race?' I didn't get my signal of the finish, so I kept going', made another lap and I got the right signal of the finish of the race.
"I came in and landed, and that's when I found out that I'd won the race! Because I wasn't sure about anything, up to that point. It was a poor start and an unknown finish, but that's the way the racing business is."
Against all odds and traditions, Harold Neumann had won the 1935 Thompson Trophy Race in a four place cabin airplane, against a field of custom-built little racers. Moreover, it was the first-and only- time that one airplane would ever win the two biggest races at Cleveland in the same year. That "Mr. Mulligan" was a most significant racing airplane is beyond serious challenge, but where did it come from . . . and why?
"Mulligan" sort of grew from one thing to another, Harold Neumann reminisced, a few months ago. "The idea, I think, I had a little something to do with it. When I was flying the Howard racers in show work, I had a Lambert (powered) Monocoupe. Benny and his wife, 'Mike' Howard, would try it occasionally, coming to some of the shows, and he was impressed with that little airplane. One time, he was flying a Tri-motor Ford, with passengers for NAT, from Moline to Kansas City. I had left a little ahead of him and he finally caught me, so we flew along together, side-by-side. I had a little 90-hp Lambert and he had the Ford with the big Wasps, and I think that impressed him.
"Then he had a ride with John Livingston in the clipped-wing 'coupe and he saw the airspeed reading 200 mph with a 145-hp Warner, so that can't help but impress a man like Benny Howard, who loved to build airplanes. So (Eddie Fisher told me this, himself), Benny one day, just says, 'Eddie, how'd you like to draw up some sketches of a big Monocoupe?' Which Eddie did. They started out around the 550hp Wasp Senior, and it was test-flown with that. Then, it was just when they came out with the engine with the big blower on, that put out 750 hp.
"I think, in the back of his mind, he was thinking about building a commercial plane. But he wanted to earn some money, and this was one way of doing it. He was always kidding around with Walter Beech-Beech had the biplane with retractable gear (the classic Staggerwing)-and Benny always told him he could build an airplane that was just as fast, if not faster, with the landing gear out."
When "Mr. Mulligan" appeared on the starting line for the Bendix Race, it was more or less in its element. Most of the other entrants were big cross-country machines: Northrop Gamma, Lockheed Orion, Lockheed Vega. But when it came time for the Thompson Trophy Race around a 15-mile pylon course, it was another matter, for almost all the other airplanes on the line were conventional little racers. How did Neumann feel? Was he out of place, sitting there in a formal cabin airplane?
"You have to go back to . . . what has the man done before? Benny Howard had already proven that he was a successful designer and engineer, and had the know how. He was always shooting high . . . to do something that nobody else had done, or was afraid to do. Just like when Steve Wittman showed up with his first little midget racer. We just shook our heads; we didn't see how it could do the job, but he proved us wrong.
This set of photos is interesting because it shows screen star, Ruth Chatterton giving that Rosco Turner the 'eye'..see left. THEN the poser on the right.
"So it was with 'Mulligan': It was big, but when you saw that big engine up front . . . Power is what it takes, up to a point, at least. And a clean airplane. The reason 'Mulligan' was as successful as it was, because the round engine worked out well in a large fuselage. That's the reason the Monocoupe was good with a round engine. I have a 145-hp Warner (radial engine) in my plane and I imagine I can get as much speed out of it - maybe even more- than somebody with a flat engine."
Once "Mr. Mulligan" had won both the Bendix and the Thompson, it probably should have been retired, but that's not what champion racing planes are for. It was entered in the 1936 Bendix Race, with Benny Howard as pilot and his wife as co-pilot. A little more than two hours short of the finish at Los Angeles, "Mulligan" broke its propeller. The crash landing was made on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern New Mexico where the Howard's were finally pulled out of the wreckage by Indians and taken to a hospital, where they recovered.
Much of the remains of the racer were soon removed and its life supposedly ended. But in 1970, a California Howard enthusiast, R. W. Reichardt, embarked on an expedition to the site, eventually locating it with the aid of an old Navajo who remembered seeing the racer crash, 34 years before. A lot of parts were salvaged, having been preserved by the dry, mountain climate, and Reichardt has set out to reconstruct the famous airplane. Its second first flight is expected to take place in late 1974 or early 1975.
Would Harold Neumann, now well into his 60's, be interested in once again flying the airplane which carried him into the history books almost 40 years ago? "Yes, I would! I've flown my 'coupe since I retired from TWA in 1966 and I feel good about it. It took me a little while to get back in the groove, but I think I could take 'Mulligan' or any airplane resembling it and fly it. Anybody who's flown a Howard DGA-15 would be qualified to fly 'Mulligan', if he doesn't get carried away with the idea that it's a hotrod and gets all worked up about it. The airplane was just wonderful, and all you'd have to do is be a pilot, to fly it.
These images of the Mr Mulligan "Clear Cabin" were submitted by Bob Martin. Thanks Bob!
Length: 25 ft
Wingspan: 31 ft 1 in
Height: 9 ft
Loaded weight: 5,000 lb
Max takeoff weight: 5,000 lb
Powerplant: 1× Pratt
& Whitney Wasp air-
cooled radial, 850 hp
Maximum speed: 260 mph
Range: 1,500 miles
Service ceiling: 22,000 ft
Rate of climb: 2,000 ft/min
Power/mass: 5.9 lb:1 hp