Q and A with Ian Jackson of CAV Systems

Industry Insights

 Q and A with Ian Jackson of CAV Systems

21st March 2024

Following our support for the Insider Made In The North East Awards in 2023, we were delighted to sponsor the Manufacturer of the Year (Under £25 million) Award again this year.

And at a glamourous awards evening at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead Hotel on March 14, Consett-based CAV Systems come out top in the category, from an impressive shortlist that included Turnmill Engineering, Gate 7, BTS Facades and Fabrications, Ford Aerospace, iPac Packaging Innovations, The Expanded Metal Company, Houghton International and Filtronic.

CAV Systems is one of North East England’s true pioneers: it’s a leading provider of ice protection and drag reduction technology to the general aviation, commercial aerospace and defence markets, worldwide.

We caught up with Ian Jackson, Vice President – Operations at CAV Systems, to get his thoughts on the company’s awards success, the firm’s evolution and what the future holds.

How did it feel to win the Manufacturer of the Year (Under £25 million) category at the Insider Made In The North East Awards? What did it mean to the CAV Systems team?

We have been designing airborne ice protection systems for over 80 years and our North East heritage is so important to us. The award shortlist demonstrates just how impressive the region’s manufacturers are, and I was genuinely thrilled and humbled to collect The North East Manufacturer of the Year (Under £25 million) award on behalf of CAV Systems.

Receiving recognition in this way is absolutely fantastic and is testament to the hard work of the entire team.

You also won the Automotive, Aerospace and Rail award on the night. What do you put your success down to?

We are tremendously proud of our ability to compete on a global scale but we still did not expect to win both these categories. It was incredible!

Over 100 aircraft variants are fitted with our TKS ice protection system and while this number continues to grow, I think it is our commitment to continuous innovation and development, in line with our core values, that helped our applications to stand out.

Our success could also be attributed to our continued investment in training, this ensures we have a diverse and deep skill set, which enables our position as a global market leader in design and manufacture of our core technologies. Furthermore, we continue to push boundaries in line with industry developments, and last year designed and built our own machines that can laser perforate and laser cut non-metallic structural materials, capable of drilling up to 1000 micro holes per second to exacting standards and quality levels.

The company is also involved in a number of collaborative projects in order to develop new technologies, including one which is beneficial to both the aviation and automotive sectors.

Why is it important that North East-based manufacturers are recognised through a dedicated awards event?

It is a terrific programme as it puts North East manufacturers in the spotlight and helps showcase the wealth of talent we have here in the region.

All the shortlisted businesses have amazing stories to tell, and as proud as we all are of the work we do, we sometimes forget to shout about it. We need to continue to raise the profile of our businesses, and celebrating the achievements of North East manufacturers in this way is a great way to do it!

How has CAV Systems evolved over the past year? What have been its key achievements?

2023 was an exciting year for CAV Systems. The business continued to prosper and we had a number of stand-out achievements. These included being granted Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Design Organisation Approval status. The approval followed a rigorous assessment of CAV’s processes, procedures, quality management system and capabilities, and verifies that it has the required competencies in place to amend or upgrade existing or aging designs in line with the regulations set out by the CAA.

We also filed for a patent for an anti-icing solution for small Uncrewed Aerial Systems (sUAS) that could revolutionise commercial drone use in cold climates and we registered a trademark for a new bio-derived de-icing fluid, which was launched at a major international trade show in Las Vegas last year. As a business we have been focussed on helping aircraft to fly further, safer and greener, so it was a natural progression for us to develop a sustainable solution for the consumable used in our system. As with the standard fluid, which is bio-degradable and non-corrosive, the fluid is specifically designed for use in CAV’s TKS® ice protection system.

Finally, in 2023 we received a Northern Powerhouse Net Zero Export Award, which was not only fantastic for us as it illustrates our commitment to decarbonisation but it also showed just how important a topic this is for the aviation sector.

Your commitment to training and apprenticeships was recognised by the awards – why is this so important to you?

Our people are absolutely our best asset. This is something we are passionate about and in order to take our plans forward, we invest not only in the development of own existing staff but also in providing access to opportunities for the next generation. Through apprenticeship and internship programmes, we offer young people the chance to expand their skillsets while gaining vital work experience, setting them up to thrive in the industry. Our programmes are tailored to enable them to develop their skills, with the opportunity to then contribute to future success.

Last year, apprentices, engineers and directors presented to a wide range of students from primary to university students to demonstrate their own careers paths, our technology, engineering, and research opportunities. An opportunity to find out more about what it is like to work for a successful aviation business, the sessions have proven extremely popular and have also led to direct requests for work experience placements, which we were happy to facilitate and have resulted in a number of success stories.

What is on the horizon for CAV Systems in 2024? What do you have planned?

2024 promises to be another busy year for CAV – as the aerospace industry continues to look for better ways to reduce emissions, new more efficient platforms are being developed, that offer further opportunity for adoption of CAV’s technologies.

Moreover, we have already been looking at the development of some new testing equipment, which will shortly be installed in our Consett facilities. Our new CAA Design Organisation status has enabled our engineers to review some system design changes and we continue to look at new market and collaborative opportunities, including the launch of a new customer training programme, which will be ideal for our aftermarket customers. This year has already gotten off to a flying start and it certainly isn’t showing any signs of slowing down!

Through winning the two awards in the North East event, you will soon be competing against manufacturers across the country in the forthcoming Insider Media Made In The UK Awards in June in Liverpool. How are you feeling about that?  

It is an honour to represent the North East at the national awards. All the categories will be hotly contested and there is some phenomenal competition, but we are very much looking forward to the event. The entire CAV team will have everything crossed on the 27th June and I am sure the nerves will kick in before then but regardless of what the outcome is, I don’t think I could be more proud of our staff.

For more information on CAV Systems, visit www.cav-systems.com