Rope maker wins £16m Airbus deal

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The Independent Online

AmSafe Bridport, which has been on the same Dorset market town site for over 300 years, has secured a $30m (£16m) contract with defence and aerospace giant Airbus.

The deal will see Bridport provide state-of-the-art cargo nets for the European group, and bucks a trend that has seen many of Britain's traditional manufacturing industries die out.

"Whereas most traditional industries in Britain have failed to adapt, in Bridport we have taken traditional skills and refined them to manufacture these very specialist products," says its managing director, Robert Mcilwraith. "Design and manufacturing will take place on our Bridport site using our own sophisticated engineering and design capabilities. We are already looking to expand our team of aeronautical engineers."

From its Grade II listed headquarters, the company is considered to be the market leader in cargo net restraints, supplying more than 50 per cent of the world market, which includes over 80 per cent of the top 100 airlines. Set up a year before the Great Fire of London by Samuel Gundry, it was bought three years ago by Phoenix, Arizona-based AmSafe.

AmSafe Bridport already supplies Airbus and the latest contract is to design one of the world's largest barrier nets, for use on the Airbus Military A400M, a high-speed turboprop military transport. The company will also manufacture and supply smoke curtains and other military cargo restraints.

A barrier net is installed into the fuselage of a transport aircraft behind the cockpit to protect the crew. The net has to be able to restrain nine times the weight of the cargo - some 288 tons, roughly equivalent to 250 family cars. "This requires sophisticated engineering and design capability," Mr Mcilwraith said.

Bridport, once surrounded by hemp producing farms and mills, was Britain's leading rope making town in the days of sailing ships.