Left: One of the Mitcheldean facility’s two new braiding machines is used to install the outer fiber skin during production of a composite propeller blade. Right: A composite blade is ready for painting at Dowty Propellers’ Mitcheldean production facility in Gloucestershire.
Dowty Propellers has re-established manufacture of composite blades for 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, U.K., 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 of 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 creation of the interim Mitcheldean operation, Dowty Propellers used the opportunity to implement new production layouts and processes, as well as introducing updated equipment, enhancing its manufacturing performance when compared to the previous facility.
Additionally, this experience will be applied when the company develops a purpose-built replacement site in the Gloucester area, which is 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 center.
Supporting the current Mitcheldean production site is a 13,500ft2 center for propeller system assembly and deliveries, located in Gloucester adjacent to Dowty Propellers’ previous headquarters at Anson Business Park.
During the post-fire recovery, the company maintained its full repair and overhaul capabilities through Dowty Propellers’ Repair and Overhaul (DPRO) center, 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 maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Brisbane Airport; along with more than 50 local repair sites around the world.
The company also relied on its global resources – including field service representatives in locations around the world, who worked closely with both aircraft manufacturers and operators in actions that included conducting repairs at customer sites and locating temporary replacements while production was being restored.
The company’s propeller system excellence, and its successful recovery from the 2015 fire, has been recognized with an Award to Industry from the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers & Coach Harness Makers of London – an organization that provides a forum for those with common interests in automotive, aerospace, and other industries, along with the armed forces.
In accepting the award at a recent London dinner event, Oliver Towers highlighted Dowty Propellers’ resilience in recovering from the fire, benefitting from the resources of its GE parent.
“One example of the GE support was that within three working days after the fire, we had new accommodation for personnel at a nearby sister GE site,” he explained. “Thanks to the support we received, and the initiatives taken by the Dowty Propellers team, we kept our operator customers’ fleets flying without interruption, and the aircraft build lines flowing.”