Following an earlier 2015 major fire incident, Dowty Propellers, confirmed a decision to create a new facility in the Gloucester area. The company a subsidiary of the American GE Aviation is a key manufacturer of aircraft propeller and digital control systems for both civil and military applications.
The development follows a fire in February 2015 which destroyed the Dowty operating headquarters and blade manufacturing facility. It is expected that the new site - subject to planning consents - located at Gloucester Business Park, Hucclecote, Gloucestershire, will be fully operational by the end of 2019. Some 380 employees will transfer from several interim properties around the county.
When completed the new Headquarters will house both the business offices and production facility, along with the main UK repair and overhaul operation.
Dowty Propellers has also announced a £20m technology development project to deliver capabilities for both propeller systems and future propulsion systems. The project, Digital Propulsion, is match funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy through the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme, with a grant of £9.5 million, and overseen by Innovate UK.
Partners include the National Composites Centre, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Manufacturing Technology Centre.
Business Minister Richard Harrington said:
"Dowty Propellers’ decision to set up a new facility demonstrates the sustained strength of the UK’s aerospace sector as well as growing quality skilled local jobs.
"Boosting innovation is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy. That’s why the government is supporting Dowty Propellers’ new technology project, helping to secure investment and future export success."
Gary Elliot, Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said:
“A key focus of the ATI strategy for UK aerospace technology is defining the propulsion of the future: advanced technologies that will enable reductions in noise and fuel burn, Dowty Propellers’ Digital Propulsion project, through its state-of-the-art digital infrastructure to develop and manufacture propellers, is an integral part of delivering that strategy and building on the UK capability in this important area”.
“We are delighted to be continuing our long history with the Gloucester area,” said Oliver Towers, president of Dowty Propellers. “The decision to stay in this area was driven by the capabilities and commitment of our workforce that stretches back over 80 years. This decision, along with our launch of the UK-supported Digital Propulsion project, will enable us to maintain our position as a world leader in propeller systems with the latest technology, supported by world-class research and development.”
These two projects, including the new facility and the technology development, represent the largest ever investment in Dowty Propellers, and demonstrate the future potential of its people and products.
“Our new facility will maintain close ties to our existing workforce and supply network ,” Towers continued.
Dowty Propellers has been operating from its temporary facility at Mitcheldean since November 2015, where manufacturing capabilities for its composite propeller blades have been established. The team is to remain at the interim facility and will only transfer to the new site when it is operational in 2019.
Dowty Propellers claims to be leader in the development, manufacture and support of electronically controlled, all-composite propeller systems, the firms' products are used in applications ranging from commercial airliners and military airlifters to multi-role seaplanes and marine hovercraft.
Its history of product 'firsts' include the all-composite propeller blade and full-authority digital propeller control.
More than 28,000 advanced composite blades have been delivered to date by Dowty Propellers, with the lead blade logging more than 45,000 hours of flight time.
The manufacture of composite blades for Dowty Propellers’ civil and military propeller systems marking the company’s recovery from a fire that destroyed its original production site in southwest England.
Operating from an interim facility at Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire, Dowty Propellers has re-created the complete blade manufacturing capability for its propeller system product lines – with output reaching the highest rates in company history.
“In re-establishing the blade production, we benefitted from the devotion of our employees, and the backing of our parent company,” said Oliver Towers, President Dowty Propellers. “During this period, we appreciated the support and encouragement from our aircraft manufacturer customers, as well as the worldwide base of operators who fly with our propeller systems.”
During its rapid creation of the interim Mitcheldean operation, Dowty Propellers has introduced new production processes, as well as updated equipment
Additionally, the knowledge gained will be carried over when the company develops its purpose-built replacement site in the Gloucester area, expected to be operational in 2019 – housing the headquarters and production facility, along with the main repair and overhaul operation and its research and development centre.
In addition, supporting the current Mitcheldean production site is a 13,500sq.ft. centre for propeller system assembly and deliveries, located in Gloucester alongside the site of the destroyed Dowty Propellers’ previous HQ at Anson Business Park.
During the post-fire recovery programme, the company maintained a full repair and overhaul capability through Dowty Propellers’ Repair and Overhaul (DPRO) centre situated in Gloucester at a location that was unaffected by the 2015 fire.
Completing the network is the U.S.-based Dowty Propellers Americas repair and overhaul operation at Sterling, Virginia; the Australian MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facility at Brisbane Airport; along with more than 50 local repair sites around the world.
Dowty Propellers supplies propeller systems for a range of applications, covering regional aircraft, military airlifters, amphibious aircraft and marine hovercraft.
On top of the agreement, GE Aviation will provide CVUT with access to its PREDIX software, as well as training.
GE Aviation will also share its technical experience related to turboprop engine design and performance modelling.
CVUT will then develop the methodology and convert the modelling into a health monitoring system using real data.
“This is a great project that connects graduate education with the industry," said Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. "The partnership will support development of aerospace technologies while applying Industry 4.0 approaches. I am glad that sustainability of the project is guaranteed from the very beginning by GE Aviation. Financing is a crucial aspect.”
GE’s PREDIX software is thought to be the world’s first industrial edge-to-cloud platform. PREDIX will enable CVUT’s Engineering program to analyze Big Data and Analytics generated through the field and engine tests.
The information obtained will be useful for identifying potential engine issues before they occur and optimizing the maintenance and overall costs of engine operation. CVUT, which will be the first university in Europe to receive PREDIX software, will provide feedback to GE on its functionality and ideas for future development.
“I am glad to see CVUT become the first university in Europe to receive PREDIX software,” said President of GE Europe Peter Stacar. “CVUT will be a major contributor in our joint efforts to drive Europe to new levels of productivity.”
“We are excited about the collaborative agreement with CVUT,” said Milan Slapak, Advanced Turboprop manager for GE Aviation Czech. “It is rare for GE to have cooperation with a university at such a scale. This is an excellent opportunity for an entire aviation eco-system in the Czech Republic.”
To further support this program, CVUT is building new infrastructure, including test cells, for capacity and capability to execute this research. The University has already signed a partnership to locate and operate ground test cells in Prague and Hradec Kralove with the Czech Aviation Research Institute; VZLU, a research and technology organization in Prague; and Czech aviation manufacturer Orbis Avia.
Parent GE Aviation, is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, components and integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings.
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