Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group


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Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group
TypeUK Private Limited Company
IndustryAerospace & Defence
Founded1 October 1909
HeadquartersCambridge Airport, UK
Key people
Alex Dorrian, Chairman
Gary Moynehan, Interim CEO
ProductsAircraft maintenance, modification and design
VIP completions
Special Mission
Deployable Systems and Upgrades
Revenue>£1 billion
Number of employees
Over 4,400

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group is an aircraft maintenance, modification and design company located at Cambridge Airport, which it also owns and operates.

Formerly known as Marshall's of Cambridge, it was originally founded by David Gregory Marshall in 1909.[1] Initially operating chauffeur services, the firm soon branched out into vehicle repair and dealership activities. During the 1930s, Marshall's became increasingly engaged in aviation; by the end of the Second World War, the company had trained in excess of 20,000 aircrew for service within the Royal Air Force. It was also engaged repair and modification of military aircraft during the conflict; it has been claimed that Marshall's performed work on over 5,000 aircraft.

During the postwar era, the Marshall companies have been involved in aerospace and specialist vehicle engineering; Marshall Aerospace forming a major part of the Marshall Group. The company performs all aspects of design, manufacture, maintenance, modification, conversion and logistic support of military, commercial and business aircraft. Traditionally focused on military customers, Marshall has increasingly orientated itself towards the civilian sector in recent decades. It employs over 4,400 people and is based on an 800-acre (3.2 km2) site with 1,200,000 square feet (110,000 m2) of covered hangar space.


Early years

Marshall Group was originally established during 1909 by its founder David Gregory Marshall, who gave the company his name.[2] Its initial base was a small lock-up garage in Brunswick Gardens, Cambridge, and at first provided chauffeur services to individual customers. It quickly became commercially viable, enabling the business to relocate to larger premises in Kings Street during 1910 and again to Jesus Lane just two years later, expanding its operations to the sale of vehicles shortly thereafter.[2] In 1912, Marshall's worked on its first aircraft, helping to repair the engine of a British Army airship, the Beta II, which had made an emergency landing in Jesus Green, near its garage. During the First World War, Marshall's premises were engaged in the servicing and repair of vehicles required for the British war effort.[2]

During the late 1920s, David Marshall's son, Arthur, took an active role in the company.[2] A keen engineer and pilot, Arthur was involved in establishing an aerodrome at Fen Ditton on the outskirts of Cambridge. During 1930, the Marshall Flying School was formed at Fen Ditton, marking the company's entry into the aviation sector.[2] During the 1930s, Marshall's purchased a large amount of farmland, using some of it to establish what would become Cambridge City Airport, which was larger and with greater facilities than its predecessor. Formally opened in 1937, the new airport was fortuitously timed with a coinciding national priority on rearmament, which included the training of military aircrew.[2] Accordingly, in 1938, a major flying training school for the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve was established by Marshall; it had reportedly trained over 600 new RAF pilots prior to the start of the Battle of Britain. The scheme was ramped up during the Second World War; the company ultimately trained in excess of 20,000 aircrew, including pilots, observers and flying instructors. During 1941, the training scheme was universally adopted by the Royal Air Force (RAF).[2]

Prior to the war, Marshall's had opened a second garage, known as Airport Garage, on the site; both garages were temporarily closed down during the conflict and were reopened shortly after its end.[2] Instead, the company was engaged in the repair and modification of military aircraft; it has been claimed that Marshall's performed work on over 5,000 aircraft, ranging in size and complexity from Airspeed Oxford and Avro Anson transport aircraft to front-line combat types as the de Havilland Mosquito, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, Vickers Wellington and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. To cope with this workload, the firm's workforce was expanded to around 3,000 employees, many of which were women.[2] Marshall's chose to continue its involvement in aviation work, such as repairs, structural modifications and conversions, even after the war's end, although it mostly abandoned its final assembly work. Instead, the firm operated as a sub-contractor of virtually all the British aircraft manufacturing companies.[2]


Marshall Motor Group rapidly flourished in the postwar era; various new garages were soon established to serve Peterborough, Bedford, and neighbouring smaller towns.[2] During the 1950s and 1960s, the firm found work in modifying hundreds of various civil airliners, including the Vickers Viscount, the first turboprop airliner, and de Havilland Comets, the first jet-powered airliner, and the Bristol Britannia. Marshall's was also involved with the National Research Development Corporation, assisting Francis Thomas Bacon in the invention of the fuel cell.[2] Around this time, Michael Marshall became the company's CEO. He managed the company for several decades, during which time it became one of the largest privately owned businesses in Britain.[3]

Royal Air Force Hercules C-130K (C3) in commemorative Hercules Integrated Operational Support Colour Scheme.

Since 1966, Marshall Aerospace has been the designated support company for the Royal Air Force's fleet of C-130 Hercules. It has been formally recognised as a Sister Design Authority for the type since 1988. The company oversaw the introduction of RAF's 25 second generation C-130J Super Hercules fleet, as well as the retirement of half of the service's first generation aircraft. In addition to its domestic support operations, Marshall Aerospace has supported various international operators' own Hercules fleets.[4][5][6] Marshall Group has also signed multiple agreements with US defense conglomerate Lockheed Martin to manufacture various components of the Super Hercules on behalf of the latter's for the global supply chain.[7][8]

Marshall Aerospace functioned as the design authority for the RAF's fleet of Lockheed TriStar tanker and freighter aircraft;[9] as well as the appointed sister design authority for the RAF's Boeing E-3D Sentry. It undertook major maintenance and modification activity on these types, plus a range of other military and commercial aircraft. Notable design achievements include the design and production of Concorde's droop nose and visor in 1967, and a vestibular sled for medical research[further explanation needed] which flew 112 orbits in Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-61-A in 1985. Marshall Aerospace has also performed a variety of passenger to tanker and freighter aircraft conversions. One unusual project was the conversion of a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar airliner into a launch vehicle for a satellite delivery system, on behalf of Orbital Sciences. Marshall Aerospace was the designated industrial body involved in the Vulcan to the Sky project, which restored Avro Vulcan XH558 to a flight-worthy condition and supported its operations for numerous years.[10]

Marshall Group has been a long-term partner of Bombardier Aerospace. During 1998, the company was appointed the first independent authorised service centre in Europe for the Bombardier Global Express long-range business jet.[11] In mid 2000, Marshall became involved in the Global Express' manufacturing process, performing interior completions on behalf of Bombardier.[12][13] During the 2010s, the firm's expertise with the type enabled it to perform extensive modifications of the airframe to produce customised special mission models for military customers.[14] Marshall Aerospace has also performed the production of long range fuel tanks for various Boeing aircraft, including the Boeing 747-400ER and 777-200LR airliners, as well as the KC-46 Pegasus refuelling tanker and the P-8 Posideon multi-mission maritime aircraft.[15][16]

By 2012, the Marshall Group was reporting an annual turnover in excess of £1 billion and was employing nearly 4,500 staff.[17] During the 2010s, the business made various moves to expand its footprint in commercial aviation, announcing its intention to establish Cambridge Airport as a primary hub for business aviation operations during 2012.[18][19] In September 2013, Marshall purchased Hawker Beechcraft's services branch at Broughton, subsequently rebranding it Marshall Aviation Services as well as being appointed Hawker's distributor for the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. That same year, the company also bought FlairJet, an air charter specialist. This move was part of Marshalls' strategy to grow its charter fleet five-fold.[20][21] At this time, Marshall Group was deliberately restructuring its business activities, particularly its sizable aerospace division.[22]

During late 2015, Marshall Group announced that, in response to a downturn in demand from the British armed forces, the firm intended to focus on its growing civilian activities, including the resumption of VIP aircraft conversion work to counteract this.[23][24] During 2019, the company announced that was planning to relocate its headquarters from its historic home at Cambridge Airport over the coming decade, although it noted there was value in relocating to a nearby location, such as Cranfield Airport, Duxford Aerodrome and RAF Wyton.[25]

Bangladesh Air Force C-130J modified by Marshall ADG

Marshall carried out depth maintenance and modified C-130J Super Hercules fleet of Bangladesh Air Force before delivered to Bangladesh.[26] Those were ex RAF aircraft. Marshall also signed a multi-year multi-million-pound support contract for the C-130J fleet.[27]


Marshall Group's headquarters is located on an 800-acre site in Cambridge, UK, the group operates worldwide in the fields of aerospace, military land systems and fleet management; the company also cooperated with 67 franchised automotive dealerships across the UK by 2012.[17][28]

Marshall Aerospace has been involved with all levels of aircraft maintenance, modification and conversion for more than seventy years. The company has the authorisation and experience to work on a range of aircraft from Cessna Citations to Boeing 747s in civil use, and Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Lockheed L-1011 TriStars for the military. Marshall Aerospace carries out maintenance from routine daily maintenance to a full aircraft depot level checks. All forms of conversions, re-configurations, modifications and repairs can be designed and implemented by Marshall Aerospace. The company's commercial aircraft hangar can house a range of different aircraft, for example, one Boeing 747-400, one McDonnell Douglas MD-11 and two Airbus A320s.[clarification needed] Marshall also has other hangar space that can hold up to 12 C-130s at a time. Amongst the various facilities it has, the firm possesses the largest quiet test building in Europe.[29]

The company has a long history of rapid response to customers, an example being the complete repaint of a Tristar at Cambridge on 16 January 1991; it was repainted in "desert colours" overnight and flown back to the Gulf for operations on 17 January 1991, the first full day of Operation Desert Storm. During the 2010s, Marshall Aerospace opened a new main paint bay, which it claimed to be one of the largest in Europe, being big enough to accommodate an entire Boeing 747.[30]

Besides aerospace, Marshall Group operates other divisions in a diverse range of fields. Marshall Group Properties own a large portion of the land surrounding, and including, Cambridge City Airport, where the company has its main base; over the years, it has embarked on various development projects to expand the airport's facilities and build thousands of homes nearby.[31] The airport itself has been owned and operated by the company since 1937.[32]

The group operates its own investment division, Martlet, which aims to provide funding to British deep technology and life science start-ups. As well as issuing capital to appealing ventures, Martlet offers other forms of support, including its experience and industry contacts, to its partners.[33] Marshall Group is the majority shareholder of Marshall Motor Retail and Leasing, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market; this unit specialises are the sale and repair of new and used vehicles, as well as their leasing.[34]

Since 1998, the Marshall Aerospace technical training department has provided systems training to all levels of engineering. There are various training programmes available for people of all ages, from apprenticeships and graduate schemes, through to Adult Re-training programmes. The courses provided are integral to meeting the business aims of the company.

Planned relocation

In May 2019, the Marshall Group, owners of Cambridge Airport, announced that the airport would be closed to all traffic by 2030 at the latest. The Group plans to redevelop the airport site for around 12,000 homes and 5 million sq ft (0.46 million m2) of business premises.[35] As of May 2019, the Group was deciding between three potential airfields for its continuing operations: Duxford and Wyton in Cambridgeshire, and Cranfield in Bedfordshire.[35] In January 2020 the Group ruled out moving to Duxford due to incompatibility between the defence requirements of the Group and the requirements of the local traffic.[36]

On 6 October 2020, Cranfield University and MADG announced that they had signed an option agreement for the potential relocation of MADG to Cranfield Airport.[37] A spokesperson for MADG cautioned that "it is important to note that the signing of the option agreement does not represent a final decision".[37]

Automotive Production

A Bedford TJ converted into a bus in Cyprus

In 1992 AWD Trucks was sold to Marshall Aerospace, who discontinued all the company's models but kept the AWD TJ in production for the export market, since it was very popular there. It is said that due to the workers at Marshall Aerospace not having much experience in assembling vehicles, the quality of the TJ trucks that were assembled by Marshall Aerospace, were not of good quality, although they were still a reliable vehicle.[38]

Marshall Aerospace tried several times to make the TJ trucks re-enter the British market, but due to new safety and emission regulations that was almost impossible to make unless the vehicle was severely modernized, something that would require a lot of funds that the company did not have, and that could also make the vehicle not sell well in export markets, since it would get a more complex construction, which was would have not been easy to repair, especially in developing countries.[38]

When Caterpillar bought Multidrive Vehicles (another company owned by David Brown, who had also owned AWD Trucks) they tried to make a licensing deal with Marshall Aerospace to produce the AWD TJ in the United States, however, General Motors did not allow that to happen and with even stricter regulations there, Caterpillar decided to not produce the vehicle.[38]

The TJ trucks eventually stopped getting produced in 1998, thus making the end of automotive production by Marshall Aerospace. There were plans to send the tooling of the vehicle to Ural Trucks in Russia, where safety regulations were not very tight, however, the deal never caught on and the truck never entered re-production.[38]

In total Marshall Aerospace produced over 90,000 of these trucks until 1998.[38]


  1. ^ French, Andy (27 October 2016). "Molly Rose, one of the Spitfire Women, has died aged 95". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Our Story". Marshall Group. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Marshall Leasing mourns the loss of an amazing founder". Cambridge Network. 29 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Marshall signs contract with US Government for Kuwait Air Force KC-130J". Cambridge Network. 6 January 2020.
  5. ^ "Marshall rolls out first Bangladesh Air Force C-130J". Cambridge Network. 23 July 2019.
  6. ^ Hoyle, Craig (22 January 2013). "PICTURE: Austria's first Hercules enters modernisation programme". Flight International.
  7. ^ "Marshall signs £9.5m five-year contract with Lockheed Martin". Cambridge Network. 26 February 2020.
  8. ^ "FARNBOROUGH: Lockheed Martin, Marshall sign C-130 support deal". Flight International. 9 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Marshall Aerospace to land TriStar deal". Flight International. 20 June 2006.
  10. ^ "Farewell to Flight Why 2015 must be XH558’s last flying season". Vulcan To The Sky, 25 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Marshall selection". Flight International. 7 October 1998.
  12. ^ Warwick, Graham (25 July 2000). "Bombardier expands Marshall Aerospace links to battle backlog". Flight International.
  13. ^ Hoyle, Craig (15 July 2016). "ANALYSIS: Marshall Aerospace diversification plan pays off". Flight International.
  14. ^ Kwiatkowski, Mark (24 August 2018). "PICTURE: Project Dolphin surfaces with UAE air force markings". Flight International.
  15. ^ Hoyle, Craig (4 May 2011). "Marshall Aerospace to supply auxiliary tanks for Boeing's KC-46A". Flight International.
  16. ^ Hoyle, Craig (14 April 2010). "Marshall Aerospace talks fuel tank inerting with 757, 767 operators". Flight International.
  17. ^ a b "Marshall Group". Marshall Group. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  18. ^ Morrison, Murdo (3 May 2012). "Marshall to create aerospace 'centre of excellence' at Cambridge airport". Flight International.
  19. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (18 July 2012). "Cambridge Airport introduces radical new pricing structure". Flight International.
  20. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (3 September 2013). "Marshall Aerospace snaps up Beechcraft's European MRO business". Flight International.
  21. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (11 March 2013). "Marshall snaps up FlairJet and plots global expansion". Flight International.
  22. ^ Morrison, Murdo (24 June 2014). "ANALYSIS: How Marshall is re-engineering its aerospace business". Flight International.
  23. ^ Gubisch, Michael (9 October 2013). "Civil push is new tack for Marshall". Flight International.
  24. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (3 November 2014). "Marshall Aviation Services prepares to offer widebody VIP completions". Flight International.
  25. ^ O'Keeffe, Niall (15 May 2019). "Marshall Aerospace scouts for new location". Flight International.
  26. ^ "Marshall rolls out first Bangladesh Air Force C-130J". Marshall. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Marshall Aerospace and Defence signs new multi-million-pound support contract for Bangladesh C-130J fleet". Marshall. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  28. ^ "Marshall Aerospace and Defence". Cambridge Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  29. ^ "Marshall invests in Europe's largest quiet test building". Cambridge Network. 15 October 2019.
  30. ^ "Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group equipment upgrade slashes carbon emissions by more than 40 per cent". Cambridge Network. 24 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Marshall Group Properties". Cambridge Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  32. ^ "Cambridge International Airport". Cambridge Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  33. ^ "Martlet Corporate Angel". Cambridge Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  34. ^ "Marshall Motor Retail and Leasing". Cambridge Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  35. ^ a b "Marshall Aerospace plans to leave Cambridge Airport base by 2030". BBC News. 14 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group rules out IWM Duxford as its new home". Cambridge Independent. 22 January 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Cambridge's Marshall Aerospace signs 'option' for Cranfield University move". BBC News. 6 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  38. ^ a b c d e "Bedford Trucks Club Registry". Retrieved 27 July 2021.

External links

  • Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group
  • Marshall Group