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At 17, Howard's interest in flying was sparked when he saw a fliers performing in their flying circus. By 18, he had saved up enough cash to buy a biplane. In those days learning how to fly was often self taught.
In his first racing plane, "Pete", Howard won five air races. As competition increased, he and his partner, Gordon Israel, built two larger, wire-braced monoplanes, "Mike" and "Ike". Ike was particularly quick in flying in an inverted position, and for a time held the world record for inverted speed. His sixth plane was called Mister Mulligan. It placed in competition for several pilots before it was destroyed in an accident in the 1936 New York - Los Angeles Bendix Transcontinental Race, a propeller failure costing Howard both the plane and his leg. 1937 saw the formation of the Howard Aircraft Corporation. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and died in Los Angeles in 1970.