Arnold's Pratt & Whitney field site earns ACE Gold

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United Technologies Corp., recently designated their Pratt & Whitney (P&W) Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) field office as an Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Gold site.

P&W Site Director Garry Blaisdell said this achievement took time and considerable effort to accomplish.

"We don't take our ACE Gold status for granted; we all worked hard to get to this level and we have to stay focused to keep it at that high of a standard," he said.

"Being gold raises the bar and brings more attention to everything we do - we have to continually strive to improve our core processes."

Blaisdell said ACE is a standard operating system for continual improvement and a process to provide the highest quality and productivity throughout all of United Technologies Corp.'s corporate entities, including P&W. ACE provides a way to remain continually focused on their customer's needs.

When a customer walks into the Pratt & Whitney field office at AEDC, it is hard not to notice how well organized and consistently clutter-free everything is there. This includes wall-mounted work flow diagrams with color coded stickers to illustrate problem areas, strategically-placed fire exit signs, labeled reference books, notebooks and neat desks with magnetic signs on each drawer, showing the contents and who is responsible for the supplies.

Each of the employees, from the director to the most recently hired engineer or technician, has a checklist and "continuity" book to enable a co-worker to pick up where the absent employee left off and preserve a ground test's or any other related project's continuity whenever and wherever possible. Continual tracking of a test's progress allows problems to be quickly identified and addressed by pre-designated team members.

Blaisdell is particularly excited by the highly visually-oriented and well-organized nature of the warehouse used by Pratt & Whitney's field site at Arnold, which employs between 35 and 50 P&W or United Technologies Corp.-associated (the parent organization) employees.

"Achieving Gold status was a huge step for us," he said. "Every site that reaches this milestone, gets a personal visit from our Pratt & Whitney President Steve Finger.

This was the reason for his visit last Friday, to congratulate and celebrate this accomplishment with our site personnel. He also met with Col. Art Huber, the center commander, and presented a plaque commemorating the 50-year testing relationship Pratt & Whitney has maintained with AEDC. That relationship began with our first engine test in 1958, a J75/P/9 engine, the power plant for the Convair F-106 Fighter."

The F-106 Delta Dart served as the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft for the U.S. Air Force from the 1960s until the aircraft was retired from service in the 1980s. The QF-106 drone versions of the aircraft were used until 1998.

Currently, P&W is testing the F119 afterburning turbofan engine at AEDC. The F119 engine was developed for the twin-engine F-22A Raptor, one of the most advanced tactical fighters in the U.S. military's inventory.

Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine is also being tested at AEDC. The F135 is the primary engine under development for the single-engine F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a multi-role fighter aircraft which will be built in three variants: a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version for the U.S. Air Force, an aircraft carrier version (CV) for the U.S. Navy, and a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft for use by the U.S. Marines, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

"With more than 2,600 hours of testing already completed on the P&W F135 engine at AEDC, the center has been an integral part of the team that will ensure the successful fielding of the F-35," said Lt. Col. Latheef Ahmed, commander of the 717th Test Squadron.

"The extensive testing program has included objectives to evaluate engine performance, operability, afterburner capability, engine controls logic, altitude qualification testing, and accelerated mission testing for endurance and durability qualification. The successful development and fielding of the F135 is paramount, not only for US Military Forces, but for more than eight other international partners who will also fly the F-35."

Dick Austin, retired director of the Arnold's engine test facility (ETF) and AEDC Fellow, said AEDC and P&W have enjoyed an enduring and special working relationship.

"We've created a fantastic technical team," he said. "It is also noteworthy that as a team, the company and AEDC's Engine Test Facility has evolved the many dimensional technologies associated with ground simulation testing of advanced propulsion systems. Both Pratt and AEDC can be proud of their joint accomplishments over many years."

Phil Stich, director of ATA's integrated test and evaluation department, said AEDC's relationship with Pratt & Whitney has been consistently mutually beneficial to both organizations.

"From the first tests of the J75 engine in T-2 test cell in 1958, to testing of the F100, F119, and F135, Pratt & Whitney and AEDC have forged an enduring professional relationship," he said. "The work Pratt & Whitney and our team have conducted at AEDC's test facilities has proven engine design intent, provided qualification for the intended engine application and reduced the risk for advancing to the next level of engine development, flight test, operational usage or production."

In observing the operations of the P&W field office and the cooperative and superior quality of work they have performed it comes as no surprise that they have won the P&W Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Gold site status," Stich continued.

"We are sure to reap continued improvements to engine testing through the efforts of P&W to improve their test and development core processes. It is truly an honor to work with and observe an organization that achieves this continuous improvement honor. It provides a benchmark and example to AEDC in how to effect continuous improvement in test processes."