Bristol Aerospace


Bristol Aerospace

Bristol Aerospace is a Canadian aerospace firm located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is now an operating division of Magellan Aerospace.

History

What would eventually become Bristol Aerospace began in 1904, when brothers Jim and Grant MacDonald moved to Winnipeg from Nova Scotia and started a sheet metal business. Brother Edwin would join them later and by the late 1920s air travel had become an important means of transportation with Winnipeg becoming an important hub for travel to the booming west. The MacDonalds formed MacDonald Brothers Aircraft Company in 1930, producing seaplane floats under licence from EDO Corporation of New York. Floats continued to be produced by the company into the early 1980s.

During World War II the factory was used for the production of training aircraft, and by war's end had grown to 4,500 employees. At the end of the war, MacDonald Bros. became an important repair and overhaul centre for the Canadian Air Force. Their location at the center of the country lowered the average travel cost for aircraft to the factories, as well as providing high-tech jobs in the Canadian mid-west. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Company performed depot level inspection and repair for many of Canada's early fighter planes.

In 1954, MacDonald was purchased by the British firm, Bristol Aeroplane Company, becoming their Canadian division. They became an important supplier of accessories for jet engines, building the exhaust pipes for the Avro CF-100 "Canuck", later becoming the primary maintenance depot for the plane. During the rest of the 50s and 60s, Bristol built on their experience in precision sheet metal work to become a major supplier of hot section components for various engine manufacturers.

In the early 1960s Bristol won the maintenance contract for the CF-100's replacement, the CF-101 Voodoo. This plane had been plagued with problems in the afterburner, and Bristol started a research project into how to correct the issues. Their proposal was accepted and both the Canadian and USAF F-101's were modified by Bristol, roughly doubling the lifetime of the engines. Bristol kept the maintenance contract for the Canadian CF-101's until the last of them was retired in 1984.

In the second half of the 1950s Bristol was selected to build several test rocket airframes for CARDE's ongoing research into high-power solid fuel propellants. After initial research completed in the early 1960s, Bristol started selling a "lightened" version of the test vehicle as the Black Brant for sounding rocket use, and opened the Rockwood Propellant Plant in 1962. The plant is located (25) minutes north of the city in the community of Stony Mountain. As a side effect of this work, Bristol entered a partnership with Aerojet General from the US, and became Bristol Aerojet the same year. This work was later applied in the early 1970s to a new 2.75" (70 mm) motor for use in US-standard rocket launchers, leading to the CRV7, which has since become the standard 2.75" rocket in "the West".

Since the incorporation of 'smart' weapons for the CF-18, Bristol no longer makes CRV-7 motors for the Canadian military. Production has dropped over the years although several smaller contracts to allied air forces have kept the plant active. A purchase by the Royal Air Force for rocket motors was completed recently along with the sale of (200) redundant launchers previously that were in long term storage at DND.

In 1967 the parent Bristol Aeroplane, whose UK aircraft construction division had been incorporated into the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) in 1960, was purchased for its Bristol-Siddeley engine business by Rolls-Royce, and renamed Bristol Aerospace. It would remain part of RR though the coming nationalization and into privatisation again.

During the 1970s the company continued to be involved in overhaul and maintenance work, and the CRV7 became a major product line. Bristol commenced developing and testing the idea, and finally patented it. The concept for the WSPS (see following) evolved from a tragic helicopter crash in Italy in April 1976 where 444 THS helicopters were conducting rescue missions following the earthquake in northern Italy. Maj Andre Seguin, then a flight commander with 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Lahr, FRG conceived the wire protection system following the fatal wirestrike. The Unit CO tried to get formal recognition for Seguin for the concept during late 1976, but there was no meaningful support from the Canadian headquarters. Bristol, shortly thereafter took the idea and ran with it. They subsequently refined, developed and patented the Wire Strike Protection System (WSPS) for helicopters, which cuts cables that they might strike while flying close to the ground. These devices can be found on almost all helicopters today, in the form of angular "blades" projecting from the top and bottom of the cabin area. They have become so popular that they are now designed right into most new helicopter designs.

In January 1987, Bristol was awarded the maintenance contract for the Canadian CF-116 Freedom Fighter fleet, some say, as a consolation prize for losing the more lucrative and longer term CF-18 maintenance and overhaul contract. The CF-5 effort lasted until 1995 when the federal government decided to remove them from service. Afterward Bristol was contracted to sell off the redundant aircraft to other interested air forces and offered to include a major avionics upgrade to the avionics system. Bristol brokered a deal in 1996 for the purchase of (10) single and (3) dual seat CF-5's by the Botswana Defence Force, but unfortunately this was the only sale to be made. The company returned the two CF-5D demonstration aircraft to CFB Trenton (for storage) on March 2004 ending over 70 years of aircraft repair and overhaul. The company would now re-focus it's energies on fabricating sub-assemblies and other components for the commercial aircraft business.

In June 1997 Bristol was purchased by Magellan Aerospace, a corporation formed by the merger of a number of Canadian and US aerospace firms, for $62,500,000. It was suspected by many that Rolls-Royce plc sold Bristol once the lucrative government fighter aircraft service contracts dried up. Since then Magellan has accelerated it's consolidation of the various divisions located in Canada, the United States and Britain under the Magellan 'brand' logo reducing the visibility (and independence) of Bristol Aerospace. Staffing at the Winnipeg plant is now under 600 people while the rockwood facility in Stony Mountain (north of the city) is approx. thirty (30).

In 1999 Bristol won the contract for SCISAT-1, the first purely-Canadian science satellite since 1971. With its successful launch on August 12, 2003, the basic systems have been selected by the Canadian Space Agency as a generic small-satellite "bus", and plans to launch a number over the next decade.

Bristol has also worked in Canadian nuclear reactor construction. It has supplied core components, CANDU reactor tubes and thermal sleeves to AECL and GE.

Magellan (Bristol) now produces aircraft sub-assemblies and engine components for all the major aerospace companies. Some examples include but are not limited to:
#Boeing 767 heat pan, Boeing 737 composite panels and Boeing 747 wing to Body Fairings
#General Electric F101 engine thruster door
#Airbus A330 & Airbus A380 aft engine plugs
#De Havilland Canada DASH 8 engine nacelles, fairings, etc.
#DHC Dash 8 Tailcone & APU Support
#Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D, PW545, PW307, PW306 engine components
#M1 Abrams AGT1500 tank engine housing
#AgustaWestland EH101 lower fuselage and composite engine & transmission cowlings
#F-35 Lightning II JSF Vertical Guide box for Rolls-Royce Lift Fan module and composite panels for fuselage.

Aircraft

References

* [http://www.magellanaerospace.com]


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