WFEL History

WFEL has its roots in the sky.

Founded in 1915 in Hayes, Middlesex, the Fairey Aviation Company relocated to Stockport in 1935 to build DH9 and DH10 long-range bombers.

The Fairey Delta — a forerunner of Concorde
The Fairey Delta 2 — a forerunner of Concorde

Playing a crucial role in Britain’s war effort led Air Minister Lord Weir to describe Fairey’s factory as ‘the finest of its class in the world’.

Almost 75 years later and we are still in the same location, with the factory still bearing the hallmark camouflage roof given to key defence targets in World War II.

But by the 1970s, our business had diversified into making tactical military bridges.

These bridges are used to help advancing forces where retreating armies have blown up bridges. They are also used for relief and rescue efforts following emergencies such as earthquakes and floods.

Our name is also different. After a number of name and ownership changes, the current business of WFEL Ltd was the subject of a 2006 management buyout backed by Dunedin Capital Partners. In 2012, global defence giant Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co KG (“KMW”) acquired a controlling stake in the business.

WFEL has come a long way but our strong heritage based on the highest quality engineering still ensures our factory is regarded as one of the best in the world.

Our record of engineering excellence:

  1. 1917-18

    Production of DH9 and DH10 long range bombers. Factory is described by air minister Lord Weir as ‘the finest of its class in the world’.

  2. 1940

    Fairey Swordfish torpedo aircraft carry out the world’s first successful carrier-borne attack. In one hour the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean is irrevocably changed.

  3. 1940-45

    The Fairey Barracuda torpedo/dive bomber becomes the most powerful aircraft flown from Royal Navy carriers in WW2.

  4. 1946

    One of the first engineering suppliers to the new nuclear industry.

  5. 1951-56

    Development of the Fairey Delta FD1 and FD2 – a forerunner of Concorde. The FD2 was the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight and held the world air speed record (1,132 mph) for two years.

  6. 1957

    We create the world’s first computer controlled 3D CNC milling machine in partnership with Ferranti.

  7. 1957

    Development of the Rotodyne, a hybrid helicopter/autogyro/fixed wing aircraft considered 40 years ahead of its time. In 1959 the 40 seat Rotodyne set the world helicopter speed record at 190.9 mph.

  8. 1969

    Work begins on the Medium Girder Bridge (MGB) for the Ministry of Defence. The design is set to become the world’s most successful military bridging system.

  9. 1971

    The Medium Girder Bridge enters service with the British Army.

  10. 1977

    The Medium Girder Bridge enters service with the US Military — one of 38 armed forces to subsequently adopt it worldwide.

  11. 1995

    Work begins on the Air Portable Ferry Bridge (APFB).

  12. 1996

    Work begins on the Dry Support Bridge (DSB).

  13. 2003

    U.S. Department of Defense deploys M-18 Dry Support Bridge in Iraq.

  14. 2005

    APFB enters service with the UK Ministry of Defence.

  15. 2006

    APFB deployed in Afghanistan.

  16. 2006

    Lightweight ski-jump runway developed for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program — a modular steel structure capable of withstanding JSF launches.

  17. 2007

    WFEL completes a significant contract for TACOM to further develop the DSB from 40 to 46 metres.

  18. 2008

    The world’s first land based aircraft ski-jump test ramp, designed and built by WFEL, is shipped to the USA to test the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

  19. 2009

    WFEL secure a £17.7m order from the U.S Department of Defense to supply a further tranche of DSB bridging systems.

  20. 2010

    The Swiss Armed Forces down select WFEL to a final shortlist of one following an international procurement contest to provide up to £60 million of tactical bridging assets.