Installation of the Howard Power Center Steering
October 7, 2014 update
San Antonio, October 2014 - We are pleased to announce the launch of The Dee Howard Foundation (DHF) website to help document the rich aviation history of the San Antonio Region and to serve as a community resource for the aviation and aerospace industries in the region and for those students who aspire to be a part of those industries.
Wayne I. Fagan
The Dee Howard Foundation
December 31, 2013 update
Howard PCS technology for sale or license
Unfortunately the quest to locate and negotiate an arrangement for support of existing systems or new systems was not fruitful. The Howard attorney says "...we have all of the technology and business records from the company but we do not have a source for new production" but they have not given up. Continuing, he says "...in 2014 to see if we can either sell the technology or license it to a third party that has both the ability, capacity, and willingness to manufacture new units and repair existing units."
If anybody has a lead on a prospective buyer or lessee, please contact Howard (contact information further down the page) directly or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll put you in contact with the principal person. This is a terrific product, let's try to keep it alive!
June, 2013 Update
Unfortunately the revival Of the Howard PCS product is still a work in progress with no encouraging news.
Dee Howard was recently honored in San Antonio for his life's achievements in the region by the naming of an airport street after Mr. Howard which is quite fitting since Dee was a very talented engineer and innovator in aeronautics.
On 3 June 2013 the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio International Airport honored Dee by renaming a portion of South Terminal Drive at the Airport “Dee Howard Way”. The following pronouncement was made by Wayne Fagan, attorney for the family:
“I am pleased to announce that working with Dr. Harry Millwater, Professor and Chair of the Dept of Mechanical Engineering at UTSA and Dr. Mehdi Shadaram [Interim Dean College of Engineering], Dee Ann and Lonnie have established the “Dee Howard Memorial Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering” with a focus on aerospace applications. We will be reaching out to the aviation community in San Antonio, the city and county, high schools, colleges, universities and technical schools, EDF, and the chambers, to collaborate with them to educate future generations of Dee Howards’ so they can develop creative, cutting edge and innovative aviation products that can be designed, developed, manufactured, installed and serviced in San Antonio and each time we drive past these street signs they will serve as a constant reminder to us of The Dee Howard Way and motivate us to ask ourselves what are we doing to pass that along to future generations.”
June, 2011 Update
To my complete surprise I recently received an email from the attorney for the Dee Howard estate and was delighted to hear there is an attempt underway to a) resurrect the business in some form and b) provide as much support as possible for existing customers of the Howard Power Center Steering product.
This email contact resulted in a long telephone discussion where I now have a good insight into the history of River City Products, its unfortunate end of operations with the passing of Dee Howard, and the evolution of events that bring us to the point to where the estate is attempting to bring River City Products (Howard Power Center Steering) back to life.
This "Lazarus" operation is in its very early stages and there are many challenges that face the owners that will be in my opinion difficult to overcome but I sincerely hope they can be completely successful in their quest - it's a great product and should be in the marketplace once again.
So, where are we at this point in time?
- The company still exists and is reorganizing
- The goal is to provide service support for existing installations and install new systems
- Current customers can contact the company at 800.879.4277 and talk to a real human (Sam Kopecky)
- Any other inquiry should be directed to email@example.com - I'm assured that every email will be answered
May, 2010 Update
River City Products (AKA Howard) is unfortunately out of business closing their doors a couple of years ago after failing to find a buyer for the business. Dee Howard was in his 80s when we had our Howard product installed and apparently was already in the process of trying to sell the business. Mr. Howard had quite the engineering and design reputation primarily in the aeronautical circles. Mr. Howard passed away a year or two ago. RIP Dee Howard and thanks for a wonderful product - it's still chugging along after 55,000 miles!
PS: Iron Horse RV that did the Howard PCS installation is still very much in business and we can certainly recommend them for your service needs!
I started my hunt for a steering centering product several months ago when I discovered that the coach's steering isn't like a car that wants to return to wheels straight (what can I say - this is our first RV!) No - I'm not trying to mask a steering or chassis problem. Freightliner in Gaffney did a four-wheel alignment, my ride height was checked, Freightliner did a road test and I run the correct tire pressure.
I have been unhappy with the constant steering attention required for the coach. Turn loose of the steering wheel for a moment and you might be headed for the road shoulder - or not. Sometimes I can turn loose of the wheel for several seconds and the coach tracks straight.
Due to the fact that the 2004+ Horizon/Vectra have independent front suspension, our choice of a steering centering product is rather limited. In fact there is exactly ONE product that I'm aware of that can be fitted - the Howard Precision Steer Wheel Control System.
Little did I realize that my coach was going to be only the second Freightliner ZF IFS Howard install . The Howard factory stopped doing factory installs of RVs effective 1/1/06 so I went to their nearby (15 minutes away from the factory) designated factory-surrogate, Iron Horse RV.
Terry of River City Products (Howard) measured and fitted up a foam board template early in the week for the custom linkage. They had the plates/linkage built a couple of days later and yesterday (3/16/06) a test fitting was made. Only a little tweaking was necessary and Terry brought a part back this morning for installation.
We finished up and did some static tests and then went out on the freeway for a road test. There was very heavy traffic and a gusty wind but I can for certain say the product works. Center the coach steering so you are tracking straight, push the trim button and then you can move the steering wheel left or right and the wheel will return to center by itself.
As I write this (3/24/2006) we have about 800 miles of highway time with the PCS. The 800 miles were on mostly straight and light-traffic part of Interstate 10 in west Texas and east Arizona so we got a great feel for the product. We had fun turning the PCS off and then back on and comparing the two driving situations. We immediately had "PCS withdrawal" and turned it back on. The PCS has greatly reduced driver fatigue - instead of intently concentrating on staying between the lines, I now feel relaxed and can safely look around, check mirrors, look at gauges, and do a little surfing on the laptop (just kidding - I was seeing if you were paying attention.) We had some really gusty winds off the port quarter while coming to Tucson, the wind was blowing a steady 20 mph with much higher gusts. With the PCS trimmed so we were tracking straight, I was literally steering easily with one hand 99% of the time. Sometimes we caught a gust from a different direction and then I would need to use two hands and do a steering correction, but not often. With the PCS activated, all steering corrections you need to make are greatly reduced in frequency and in effort; steering corrections now happen in slow motion.
How much? Expensive - around $4k installed out the door (plus free camping at Iron Horse and a cookout on Friday afternoons!) Fortunately the book keeper (Jane) is as enthusiastic about the PCS as I am!
Let's take a look at the installation...
We need to begin with a nice picture of Terry and Daryl - these two were instrumental in a) taking our money and b) providing a great product that lives up to its reputation!
At first, Terry said they would not do the installation due to the level of complexity with the independent front suspension (IFS), Dee Howard said it they (us) drove here from Florida for this installation, let's do the job! So Terry comes back with the good news and starts to plan the job
Templates were made. Even with templates, one steel part didn't fit quite correctly and had to be bent and the ends of the ram swapped around during installation
Now Iron Horse has a lift - ramps aren't necessary any longer
Thanks to our Zonder Funk (ZF) IFS front suspension, the installation of the PCS was more complex. The bracket circled in white is necessary because there is not a mounting possibility for the cylinder to actuate the steering rod directly. Installation on a straight-axle front end is much simpler because the cylinder can be mounted transversely and it is an easy connection to the steering tie rod