Family firm is flying high with helicopter project

A South Tyneside firm is aiming high by collaborating in a bid to provide Britain’s armed forces with a new helicopter.
An AW149 demonstrator helicopterAn AW149 demonstrator helicopter
An AW149 demonstrator helicopter

Ford Aerospace is working with the UK’s largest onshore helicopter manufacturer, Leonardo – providing key components for the AW149 helicopter which aims to win the contract for the Government’s new medium helicopter requirement, which will see the armed forces replacing four helicopter types by mid-2024-25.

The South Shields-based firm is part of ‘Team AW149’ – 70 companies selected by Leonardo to represent the best of British manufacturing for the project.

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Ford Aerospace has roots in South Shields going back to 1910, when company founder Robert Ford, suffered a workplace accident and set up the business at the age of 29 with a workforce of just three, including himself, manufacturing corrugated steam joints.

Chris FordChris Ford
Chris Ford

Since then, the firm has been run by run by generations of the family.

Current managing director and great grandson of the founder, Chris Ford,said: “Ford Aerospace provides Leonardo Helicopters with a top class manufacturing service for small precision machined, pressed, and laminate components.

"As a trusted partner of Leonardo we are delighted to be involved in the AW149 team and be able to represent the best of UK manufacturing,”

The company supplies components to 27 different countries.

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Ford’s relationship with Leonardo – which is based on Yeovil and was founded in in 1915 – goes back to the 1980s and over the years the two companies

have forged a close bond.

Mr Ford added: “Today our in-house capabilities are extensive for a business our size and includes CNC machining, threadrolling, assembly, pressing, laser cutting, laminate shim and material manufacture, and grinding and lapping, amongst others.

“To be associated with such a well-known brand and best-in-class aircraft is fantastic and we pride ourselves on the skills and ability of our people that

produce thousands of different items to spec, on time, and cost effectively.

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Ford Aerospace’s commitment to training the next generation of engineers has also seen the company found the Ford Engineering Academy.

With support from it’s partners at Gateshead College, the firm has up to 100 trainees progressing through the academy every year.