Dowty’s next 50 years

Press Release: FLIGHT International, 3 October 1981

Dowty’s next 50 years

Since young George Dowty supplied his internally sprung wheel for the   Kawasaki  KD5/92 in 1931, the 14 companies worldwide which today comprise Dowty Group’s Aviation Division have supplied landing gear,  fuel and engine management systems, pumps, hydro mechanical equipment, flying controls or propellers to all the world’s makers of airframes and engines.

J. M. Ramsden reports on the company’s present status and prospects.

With other major equipment suppliers, Dowty is preparing to support British Aerospace in developing a 1990s RAF and export combat aircraft. The  company   understands that British Aerospace will take a final decision to go ahead with  prototypes at the end of next year.  At this point Dowty, assuming that its bids are  accepted by British Aerospace, will commit itself to the expenditure of perhaps £12  million.

Dowty Aerospace  Division Managing Director Warwick Squire says:   “We’ve got to get a 500/600-aircraft programme. If the specification is good the RAF will go for   it.   But it has to be an export aircraft, and priced accordingly.” Dowty is prepared to cooperate with any other equipment company to reduce risks. The company  believes it is in a strong position for the flight-control system, having   been  responsible to  British Aerospace for the fly-by-wire Jaguar.

“This is the last new combat aircraft opportunity for the British industry this    century,”  says Squire. “Failing the P.110, the Royal Air Force will probably buy    American.  But it is essential to use as many common Tornado parts as possible    and not to re-invent too many wheels.”

Although the Anglo-American memorandum of understanding on AV-8B  cooperation gives 40 per cent.” of the airframe and 75 per cent of the engine work to British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce respectively, there is no mention of any contractor apart from McDonnell Douglas.

Like all Harrier equipment suppliers,  Dowty has no assurance that it will be  responsible for the undercarriage or any other part of the AV-8B.  The “massive     orders for British industry” headlined in the papers are not confirmed for the    equipment industry, which will have to compete with US  suppliers in responding    to the prime contractor, McDonnell Douglas.

Tornado is not yet at peak,  and AV-8B could come in at the right time, assuming   Dowty gets its “incumbent” business equivalent in volume and turnover almost  to Tornado.  “That’s  the  size  of  the  programme,”  says Warwick  Squire.  “But I can’t  say we’ll get everything.”

Will the AV-8B work take the urgency out of the P.110 project?  Squire does not think so, if only because BAe has some big factories, and  P.110 or something like it has to follow Tornado and Jaguar.

Dowty has got contracts for the first  12 production AV-8B undercarriage and     associated hydraulic sets, and expects to receive orders for another 24, with  options on up to 90. Dowty has the inside track as the incumbent supplier, but is  well aware of the possibility of resources. There are indications that some of the    AV-8B avionics may be American.

Given AV-8B initial orders for an almost certain 4001, Squire believes that  the  programme is likely to run to 1,000 aircraft this century “and it is my intention to   ensure that Dowty will retain the business.” Dowty’s AV-8B equipment could be assembled, tested, and supported if required by one of Dowty’s North  American   factories.  The product support base at Sterling (near Washington Dulles  Air-port)   has been recently doubled in size and could take on fuel-systems assembly, test   and overhaul, for example. The west coast factory at Yakima, near Seattle, could produce actuators and various other hydraulics.

A joint company with Smiths Industries, DSIC Inc., has been formed in the USA. It is  an extension of the successful UK engine-management marriage between Dowty      hydro-mechanical and Smiths’ electronic expertise.  In Canada at Ajax,  Toronto,  a  40-year-old Dowty company designs, tests and manufactures landing gear and  hydraulics for such aircraft as Challenger and Dash 8.  Dowty policy is for its North   American companies to be run by nationals.

Dowty has had three chairmen in its 50 years:  A. W. Martyn, Sir George Dowty, the founder, and the present Sir Robert Hunt. During that time the aerospace activity  has been headed by the latter two and the current Warwick Squire, who believes   strongly in management  continuity “provided it is  open-minded enough to bring   in specialists to run subsidiary companies, relying on them completely to produce   the goods while we exercise overall policy and financial control


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