Dowty Propellers’ reset of its production capabilities is fully underway, placing the company on track to ramp-up the manufacture of composite propeller blades following a fire earlier this year at its Gloucestershire headquarters in southwest England.
A new interim production site has begun operation at an 80,000-sq. ft. facility in Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire county, which has been adapted to Dowty Propellers’ specifications for blade manufacture and also incorporates office space for support personnel.
Equipment now functional in the facility includes new braiding machinery for the layup of composite blades’ outer fibre skins, foam injection rigs for the creation of propeller cores, cutting capability for carbon and glass fibre fabric, along with tooling positions for composite layup and quality control workstations.
In the process of installation at Mitcheldean is additional machining capacity for the production output ramp-up, along with an area for blade finishing, coating and painting.
“Dowty Propellers is coming back – better than ever”
The Mitcheldean facility is staffed by Dowty Propellers employees, all of whom were retained during the recovery period after the February fire at the Anson Business Park headquarters facility. Their ranks are now being further expanded by new personnel which currently are being hired and trained to support the production ramp-up.
“Our company’s determination to fully recover its production and customer support capabilities was literally forged in the February fire, and it is no exaggeration to say that Dowty Propellers is coming back – better than ever,” said President Oliver Towers.
He explained that a three-pronged reset plan was defined by managers in the initial hours after the fire: keep the Dowty Propellers-equipped aircraft fleets flying with customers and operators worldwide; rapidly re-establish the blade production capability; and retain the company’s full ranks of skilled employees.
“Through the dedication, hard work and efforts of everyone at Dowty Propellers – along with the support and resources from our parent company – we are meeting these goals,” Towers added.
A centre for logistics and blade deliveries at Gloucester
In addition to the Mitcheldean production site, an interim 13,500-sq.-ft. centre for manufacturing logistics, assembly and blade deliveries has been established adjacent to Dowty Propellers’ original Gloucester headquarters location. Both this operation and the new Mitcheldean facility are larger than equivalent areas at the previous Anson Business Park headquarters for production and logistics/delivery.
Dowty Propellers’ facilities and operations that remained in service at Anson Business Park after February’s fire enabled the continued manufacturing of the company’s propeller control unit assemblies, while a contingent of employees was temporarily relocated to the UK’s National Composite Centre in Bristol for the production of de-icing boots.
Multiple test cells at Dowty Propellers’ Anson Business Park headquarters location were not impacted by the fire, and they have continued in service to support the company’s propeller system development activities. Another company test site in the Gloucester area is being used for blade finishing.
Dowty Propellers’ Repair and Overhaul centre (DPRO), situated in Gloucester at a location separate from the headquarters, also was unaffected by the February blaze. DPRO maintained its regular duties without interruption, while contributing as well to the company’s overall production recovery efforts. In addition, a number of employees temporarily joined the repair and overhaul operation, helping to drive shorter repair turnaround times on in-service blades for customers.