Global propeller business creates new facility from the ashes in Gloucester

Dowty photograph

Following the fire which totally destroyed its original headquarters and blade manufacturing facility in Gloucester in February 2015, Dowty Propellers has inaugurated its new facility in Brockworth  to provide a modern operation for the company’s development, manufacture and support of state-of-the-art propeller systems with all-composite blades.

Located just outside Gloucester at Brockworth’s Gloucester Business Park, this 183,000-sq. ft. building brings together Dowty Propellers’ primary resources at one site: from the full production process for its propeller systems to the company’s administrative offices, design and engineering teams, as well as the Dowty Propellers Repair and Overhaul (DPRO) center – the U.K. arm of Dowty Propellers’ global support network.

Dowty Propellers President, Oliver Towers, said: “The inauguration underscores Dowty Propellers’ firm commitment to continuing its leadership in creating, manufacturing and supporting the most sustainable, efficient and robust propeller systems. It also is an unequivocal testament to our employees, who met the challenge of literally rebuilding Dowty Propellers from the ground up in what is widely seen as one of the most remarkable recoveries in the aviation industry.”

Dowty Propellers’ post-fire recovery efforts ensured that the supply and support of propeller blades and their related control systems continued unabated. This enabled airframers to maintain the production line cadence for new-build airplanes, while airlines and military operators kept their aircraft fleets flying – including Lockheed Martin’s C130J Super Hercules airlifters and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada’s Dash 8-400 regional airliners.

The new facility will incorporate technologies for the production, control, repair and in-service support of the company’s propeller systems, which are used on turboprop and turboshaft engines powering regional airliners and military airlifters, along with amphibious aircraft and marine hovercraft.

Following the devastating fire in 2015, the company purchased new production equipment and created an interim blade manufacturing facility at Mitcheldean in the Forest of Dean. This equipment is now being transferred into the new building at Brockworth, which will become fully operational in the first half of 2020.

The U.K. DPRO centre – which previously had operated at a separate location in Gloucester – will now be integrated into the new Brockworth facility, providing additional synergy with the company’s design engineers, production specialists and support teams. There also are DPRO centres in Sterling, Virginia, U.S.A., and Brisbane, Australia, as well as a team of field service engineers that are deployed around the world for field repairs.

“The entire Dowty Propellers team was focused on the return-to-production, as well as providing support that was critical to the C-130J Super Hercules’ global operator community. Lockheed Martin values the commitment and partnership exemplified by Dowty Propellers as the company worked to rebuild its operations and restart the propeller blade production line,” said Rod McLean, the Vice President and General Manager for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin.

Todd Young, Chief Operating Officer of De Havilland Canada, added: “On behalf of myself and our team, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary commitment of Dowty  Propellers and its employees. The Dowty Propellers team has always maintained a partnership approach with De Havilland Canada. Notwithstanding the 2015 event, the Dowty Propeller team has been able to provide seamless support to our production line and ensured continued worldwide support to our airlines. The De Havilland Canada team is delighted to be here on this inaugural day, and we look forward to a continued prosperous relationship with Dowty Propellers.”

As a business of GE Aviation, Dowty Propellers benefited from its parent company’s resources in the post-fire recovery efforts. Within hours of the February 2015 fire, core Dowty Propellers teams were relocated to GE Aviation offices in Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham, where they were provided with telephones, computers and system connectivity.

This enabled the preparation of a reset plan that focused on three elements: keeping the Dowty Propellers-equipped aircraft fleets flying with customers and operators; rapidly re-establishing the composite propeller blade production capability; and retaining the company’s ranks of skilled employees. The reset plan was successfully carried out as defined immediately after the fire, with Dowty Propellers meeting its milestones during the four years that followed – including the timing for today’s new facility inauguration ceremony.

“The new facility offers a unique opportunity to realise the benefits of the significant investments made in recent years in the new technologies and advanced manufacturing techniques that will support the development of more-efficient and lower-noise propellers,” said Gary Elliott, Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute which creates the technology strategy for UK aerospace, and funds research and development.”We are pleased to support the DigiProp programme and Dowty Propellers’ state-of-the-art research to find ways to increase the efficiency and reduce the noise footprint of what is already an inherently efficient propulsion system. Propellers have a great future as we need ever more efficient aircraft, including their application in hybrid and electric-powered solutions.”

“Dowty Propellers’ efforts over the past four years not only represent its commitment to the exciting future of propellers, but also its commitment to providing world-class products and solutions for its global customer base,” added Brad Mottier, GE Aviation’s Vice President and General Manager of Business and General Aviation & Integrated Systems. “With this state-of-the-art facility, Dowty Propellers is poised to continue its leadership in this industry with sustainable, smart technologies and a driven, dedicated workforce.”