As a school leaver in the late 1980s looking for an engineering apprenticeship scheme, and with an interest in aviation, Dowty Group was a natural choice for Jonathan Chestney. And it’s a decision he’s never looked back on, as he celebrates his 35-year anniversary with Dowty.
“The Dowty Student Apprentice scheme was similar to the Degree Apprenticeship schemes that are available today,” Jonathan recalls. “These schemes provide an excellent grounding in understanding a business and how your particular specialism fits in. The industrial experience lends real relevance to the academic study, and the financial benefit of being employed is always a benefit!”
Jonathan’s first rotation in the 1980s was working on the Fokker 50 propeller controller. As the first electronically-controlled propeller, it was ground-breaking technology in its time – an approach that has helped Dowty become the world-leading propeller manufacturer it is today.
In the early 1990s, after graduation, Jonathan started in the engineering department at Dowty Aerospace, and soon found himself running a company-funded research programme in London, before returning to Gloucestershire and progressing through various roles, including managing the ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd US2 propeller development programme. “There’s no doubt that the experience I gained through the apprenticeship helped me to advance in my career and offered me flexibility with that career path.”
Fast forward to today, and Jonathan now manages all technical aspects of Dowty’s product through its lifecycle. “It’s really exciting to touch all aspects of the product lifecycle and the business,” says Jonathan. “My role includes everything from looking at cutting-edge technology for future sustainable aircraft to providing support for longstanding aircraft like the Spitfire at the other end of the spectrum. No two days are the same.”
It’s fair to say the Dowty business has changed over the past 35 years. The adoption of technology has seen a digital revolution in the business which brings Dowty many opportunities to support customers in the development and performance of their aircraft. New technology has exciting implications for the future of the business. “The efficiency of the propeller system means Dowty is well positioned to deliver on the customer’s sustainability requirements.” He continues, “To be 35 years into my career and be able to look at something that could be so dramatically different for the industry… well, it’s really exciting and unique! Here at Dowty, we’re passionate about the role propeller technology has in supporting a zero-carbon future for aviation.”
Jonathan credits a lot of this technical potential to his team. “I never cease to be amazed by the capability of the Dowty engineering team”, he says. “They understand the product and the needs of the customer so deeply but all the while being grounded in the need to have safety running through everything we do. It’s paramount to keep our customers flying, and I’m so proud of my team for living this ethos each and every day.”
“As an engineer, naturally I get very excited about technology – but I get equally excited by the people behind that technology, particularly the apprentices. I’ve seen so much promising talent come through the engineering team over the years and it’s incredibly rewarding to see apprentices develop their confidence and skill sets with the team before moving into more senior roles within the business. They take great pride in delivering world-class propeller systems for our customers, and I’m excited to see where their passion and engineering excellence will take the Dowty business in the coming years.”