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In 1924, “Benny” Howard, with only a grammar school education, designed and built his first aircraft, the DGA-1. That was the start of an amazing career designing and building racing airplanes. The greatest and probably the most successful one he built was “Mr. Mulligan.” It won the 1935 Thompson Trophy.

Famous aircraft builder Donald W. Douglas said of Benny, “He commenced building and designing other light airplanes to which he gave the basic designation ‘DGA.’ These initials stood for ‘Damn Good Airplane.’ And they are just that.” In 1927, during the Prohibition Years, he built the DGA-2 with a large, extra “fuel tank” for a whiskey smuggler to store his wares. 

Having started his work in an old factory at Chicago Municipal Airport in 1922, Benny formed the Howard Aircraft Corp in 1936. Production of the Howard Aircraft Corporation from 1936 to 1939 totaled about 30 custom-built aircraft. In 1939, however, the company built the 5-place DGA-15. It produced 520 between 1939 and 1944. 

Due to the shortage of military aircraft at the beginning of the war, most of the civilian Howards were commandeered by the military. The Army used them as officer transports and as air ambulances, with the designation UC-70B. The Navy, in particular, liked the aircraft and contracted Howard Aircraft Corporation to build 520 DGA-15Ps to its own specifications at the DuPage County Airport west of Chicago.

After producing several of the most famous racing and private aircraft of the Golden Age of Aviation, the Howard Aircraft Corporation ceased production in 1944. Howard aircraft will always be remembered for their roominess and comfort for passengers. Although they provided the pilots some excitement when coming in for landings, they were a very durable plane. The FAA lists 107 airworthy DGA-15s in the world today, attesting to their durability and desirability. The aircraft shown here is air worthy.

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