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