BBA Aviation can trace its origins back to a small industrial belting works founded in Scotland in 1879. Over time, what was known as BBA Group grew its operations to include a wide range of specialist industrial and automotive products before becoming involved in aviation. In 2006, with the demerger of Fiberweb, BBA became a focused aviation support and aftermarket services business and was renamed BBA Aviation.
Scandinavia Mills, Cleckheaton, 1907
In 1879, William Fenton, a manufacturer of textile belting for machinery and Walter Willson Cobbett, a merchant distributor became partners and established a small belting works in Dundee, Scotland.
For its first thirty years, the company's main product was solid woven belting used primarily for power transmission and mechanical conveying in industries such as mining. In 1901 the business established a new base in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, UK and in 1911 was renamed Scandinavia Belting Limited. With the coming of war in 1914, Government orders took priority and production was switched to khaki and brace webbing and puttee tape. In 1925 the company changed its name again to BB&A Limited.
Over time the company's manufacturing interests grew to include a wide range of industrial products and automotive products, sold and manufactured around the world. By the early 1980's around one third of its employees were based outside the UK.
The company's involvement in automotive products developed from its weaving expertise when, in 1908, large quantities of belting were ordered from America by Henry Ford. At first, it was not known what these would be used for but it was later discovered that the belting was being used as transmission linings on Ford's new Model T motor car. Within six years the Cleckheaton factory was producing 40,000 feet of linings every week and went on to produce new linings for other car manufacturers including Morris, Austin and Vauxhall in the UK and Renault and Bugatti in France.
The company's automotive and friction products business developed quickly under the brand name Mintex. During the second world war friction materials were in great demand, both on the ground and in the air. Over ninety percent of the total supplies of brake linings for British aircraft came from Cleckheaton with Mintex materials fitted to the Spitfire, Hurricane, Typhoon and Wellington as well as other planes. On the ground, Mintex materials were fitted to many of Britain's tanks including the Churchill and the Cromwell and army webbing and parachute harnesses and fire hoses were woven on the company's looms.
Mintex played a key role in the development of disc brake pads from the early 1950s both in the UK and abroad. In 1959, Jaguar became the first company to fit disc brake pads to its production model cars and, from there, other manufacturers followed. By the early 1980s the BBA Group, the holding company created in 1967 and now mostly focused on automotive and friction materials, was the world's largest supplier of original equipment brake pads to the automotive industry.
Aviation & nonwovens
In 1986 BBA Group made its first major move into aviation by acquiring the UK based landing gear and hydraulics business APPH within its automotive business and a similar business in the US. It also acquired its first nonwoven fabrics business by buying a part share in US nonwovens business Reemay.