Vale Ron Howard CBE BE FREng HonFRAeS (1929 – 2017)

Ron HowardThe Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society is saddened to advice of the passing of Mr Ron Howard, in Adelaide South Australia on 23 June 2017. Ron is survived by his wife Enid, and daughters Julie and Janet.

I first met Ron Howard when he provided a presentation on Flight Control Systems in Adelaide in 2004. His reputation was well known, and the lecture theatre filled to capacity, as Ron spoke about his experience in the development of flight control systems for advanced fighter and commercial aircraft. His work, frankly, was well beyond the experience of my contemporaries. We were fascinated by his experience at the forefront of aerospace. More recently, I have enjoyed the company of Ron and Enid at the annual dinner for the Adelaide Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society, where they were always respected as the VIPs.

After graduating from Adelaide University, Ron worked at the Australian Department of Defence in Salisbury, South Australia on the RTV-1 guided missile. Ron was subsequently seconded to the UK to work with the Admiralty Gunnery Establishment. He would build a world leading career in the UK for the next 40 years.

Ron joined the Aviation Division of Elliott automation at Borehamwood in October 1954. Ron was quickly considered an expert in analogue flight control system. Initially asked to develop stability and control programs for pitch, roll and yaw axes for what was to become the Mach 2 English Electric Lightning.

In 1957 the Elliott Company diversified its activity to work on the newly developing and important safe active controls field, and Ron led the team which developed the VC10 autopilot and auto-landing systems, which in turn paved the way to develop the control systems for the TSR2. The experience with VC-10 and TSR2 led Ron to work in support of the automatic landing systems for the Concorde. This pioneering work led to the first safety critical fly-by-wire systems for the Tornado and Typhoon. In 1986 he was awarded the British Gold Medal for Aeronautics.

Ron’s success extended well beyond the design office. He was first appointed to the Board of Elliotts in 1965, and became Managing Director of GEC Avionics (the successor to Elliotts) in 1987 and Chairman in 1989. Ron received his CBE from the Queen ‘For Services to The Avionics Industry’ in 1991. In 1993 he became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Ron returned to Australia in 1993 to retirement and maintained an active interest and involvement in engineering and aeronautics. Ron was appointed to a senior position in the Defence and Systems Institute at University of South Australia where he mentored post graduate students in systems engineering. He frequently travelled overseas to present lectures and key-note speeches and also wrote a number of published papers.

Ron maintained an active role within the Society, serving on the committee of the Adelaide Branch. Ron’s contribution to aerospace development during the halcyon days was absolutely the work of legends and provided the heavy lifting that supports the present development of digital flight control systems across modern military and commercial aircraft.

GPCAPT James Blagg FRAeS
Chairman, Adelaide Branch