: 3 min
George Dowty, a Safran pioneer from across the Channel
Born in 1901, George Dowty began his career in the British aeronautics industry at an early age. Between 1920 and 1931, he worked at several companies in the sector, and when just 21 years old he designed his first landing gear for A.V. Roe and Co. When 23 years old, George Dowty filed his first patent for a braking device.
In 1931 he founded Aircraft Components Co., his first company. It wasn't long before he received an order from the manufacturer Kawasaki, hired his first employees and rented his first factory. Specialized in landing gear shock absorbers, he set himself the technological challenge of making these components smaller and lighter. His goal was to incorporate the shock absorbers, springs and brakes inside the wheel.
From very early on, he grasped the importance of quality control in aeronautics: as such, he was one of the first manufacturers to establish a team of engineers specialized in the maintenance and overhaul of equipment in service.
The Second World War
George Dowty's company contributed significantly to the war effort during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1945, Dowty plants produced 87,000 landing gear parts and nearly one million components for hydraulic systems. Most British planes in service during this period (Gladiator, Hurricane, Typhoon, Halifax, Blenheim, etc.), 28 different models in total, had Dowty equipment on board.
His support for the Royal Air Force during the War and his participation in the technological advancement of the British aerospace industry earned him the honor of being knighted by the Queen in 1957.
In 1949, he was selected to make the enormous landing gear to equip the Bristol Barbazon, a giant airliner designed for transatlantic flight. Indeed, one of his core businesses at the time was manufacturing reinforced landing gears for very heavy aircraft (such as the Lincoln Bomber built in 1944 and which weighed nearly 33 tons).
It was also during this period that George Dowty opened his first plants in the United States, Canada and Australia to be closer to aircraft manufacturers located outside of Europe. His company was already international and had many customers around the world. For example, in 1968, more than 700 aircraft operated by American customers were equipped with Dowty products.
In 1952, George Dowty was elected president of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Collaboration with Messier, the beginnings of Safran Landing Systems
George Dowty was a devoted visitor to the Paris Air Show, not missing a single edition since first participating in it in 1935! As it happens, it was at the 1967 edition of the show that Messier and Dowty signed an initial partnership agreement, marked by the creation of two joint ventures: Dowty Messier Ltd. and Messier Dowty SARL. In 1995, these two companies merged to create Messier-Dowty International. It was in 2011 that Messier-Bugatti, Messier-Dowty and Messier Services merged to form Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, now Safran Landing Systems.
Did you know?
Fascinated by the potential offered by industrial diversification, George Dowty often sought to develop his products for other fields. The Second World War give him an opportunity to pursue this diversification. Indeed, during this period, Dowty produced an eclectic range of objects including women's shoes, plastic straps and metal cases!