Pratt & Whitney executives were joined by hundreds of their workers and Connecticut lawmakers Monday as they celebrated becoming the Pentagon’s sole manufacturer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet engine and a contract with Boeing Co. to manufacture the engines for the U.S. Air Force‘s refueling tankers.
Pratt & Whitney President David Hess said the Pentagon’s decision to halt production of an alternative engine developed by General Electric Co. was a victory not only for Pratt & Whitney, but for the taxpayers who won’t have to pay $3 billion to develop an alternative engine.
While government funding has been eliminated for the alternative engine, General Electric Co. said it will fund continued development of the F136 engine with its own money.
General Electric Co. declined to comment Monday, but in a previous statement said there were already $3.5 million in cost overruns and delays related to the Pratt & Whitney engine, and “unless the P&W engine is forced to compete, these problems won’t fix themselves.”
Hess said the engines have already recorded more than 88 flawless vertical landings, 845 flight tests, and 1,200 flight hours. He said they will also be delivered on time.
Louis Chenevert, chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney’s parent company, said production of these engines “are the kind of projects that ensure our kids will work for this great company.”
“It paves the way for decades of success,” Chenevert said.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, who spearheaded the fight in Congress to limit production of the Joint Strike Fighter engine to just one company told the crowd Monday that he can’t think of anything in his more than 30 years of public service that’s as important as these engine contracts.
As Pratt & Whitney workers celebrated with U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Norman Dicks of Washington, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman the labor disputes of the recent past seemed like a distant memory.
Pratt & Whitney was criticized by most of the officials present in 2009 when it announced it would be eliminating jobs at two of its repair plants in the state.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who remained in Washington D.C. Monday to preside over the Senate, joined the federal lawsuit filed by the International Association of Machinists to stop the company from shutting down the plants and moving jobs to Georgia. At the time Blumenthal was Connecticut’s attorney general.
Two federal court decisions sided with the unions and even though the plants were shut down workers were given severance and other benefits.
Larson said the contracts for both the Joint Strike Fighter engine and the refueling tanker will help create high-skilled manufacturing jobs.
“What’s good for Pratt & Whitney is good for the United States of America,” Lieberman said as he concluded his remarks.
The ceremony was held at Pratt & Whitney’s Museum, an old airplane hangar, at its East Hartford headquarters, but that didn’t stop DeLauro and Courtney from talking about the defense related contracts in their own districts.
“From submarines on the shoreline to the next generation tanker at Pratt & Whitney, Connecticut is increasingly where the Pentagon turns when it requires high-quality, cost-effective results,” Courtney said.
DeLauro, whose district includes Sikorsky, said she is still working hard on making sure the contract for the president’s helicopter goes to Sikorsky.