Hundreds of Pratt & Whitney employees gathered together in the Middletown, Connecticut, Engine Center last week to commemorate the end of production of the final F117 engine used to power the C-17 Globemaster III airlifter.
Some wore jeans and sneakers, some wore C-17 baseball caps, and others were in skirts and blazers, but they all had a common bond: they loved Pratt & Whitney’s F117 engine.
Employees gathered around the behemoth F117, which rested on a blue engine stand marked „Property of the U.S. Government,” reminiscing about their time working on the program – some of them for their entire careers – marveling about its capability and contributions since its inception 28 years ago. A sense of accomplishment, congratulations, and a bittersweet reality sunk in to the crowd – this occasion marked the production of 1,313 engines, and the final F117 to come off the production line.
Four F117s, each capable of producing about 40,440 pounds of thrust, act as the exclusive powerplants for Boeing’s C-17. The airlifter is responsible for transporting warfighters and materiel, performing medical evacuations, and carrying out humanitarian operations. The C-17 is flown by the Air Forces of Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India and Kuwait, the NATO Airlift Management Programme, in addition to the U.S. Air Force. In all, F117 engines now have flown more than 12 million hours.
In her remarks to the crowd, Bev Deachin, vice president, Mobility Programs & Customer Support, offered her perspective on the impact of the F117 engine program.
„These planes have operated at a high tempo, and in hot, dirty, dusty and extremely challenging conditions,” she said. „Whether the mission has been relief for flood victims in Pakistan, earthquake victims in Haiti, or transporting troops and material to Iraq and Afghanistan or to makeshift airstrips in other austere locations around the globe, the F117-powered C-17 has been an absolute workhorse.”
In a video produced for the event, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller, U.S. Air Force, and current vice president, Business Development & International Programs, said, „The thing that was special about the C-17 is that they were 100 percent operational every day because of their F117 engines. And when the air commander required a C-17 to conduct a mission on short notice, it was always there.”
Others commemorated the F117 program for its role in maintaining the United States' core values. Nick Williams, a former C-17 pilot, now the general manager of Pratt & Whitney operations in O’Fallon, Illinois, said, „In the eyes of the people who see it firsthand after disaster strikes, make no mistake, it is the symbol of the generosity of America and our goodwill to people in need.”
Bennett Croswell, president, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, echoed the praise for the engine and the capability that it provides to the C-17.
„Our F117 continues to play a critical role in the military’s mission to bring personnel and supplies in and out of war zones, but this great aircraft is so much more than that,” he said. „When fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters leave the people of the world in need, the C-17 delivers vital humanitarian aid to lift people up and get them back on their feet. That is the reason that one of the most common sights at the scene of disaster relief is the T-tail of the C-17.”
Croswell added that the F117 has been one of the most successful engine programs in the company’s history. He attributed a large part of that success to the commerciality of the engine; the F117 is inherently identical to the PW2000 engine, known for powering Boeing’s popular 757.
„That fact allowed our Air Force customer to enjoy the benefits of a top performing engine without having to pay the cost to develop it,” he said. „And over the years, as we have funded improvements to the engine to support our commercial customers, the military has also benefitted from those improvements.”
Croswell noted that the high levels of readiness, durability, power and reliability were the hallmarks of the engine, and something that every employee should be proud of.
Keynote speaker Brig. Gen. Stacey T. Hawkins, director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection for the U.S. Air Force Mobility Command, said the F117 program has generated lots of happy air force customers in its 28 years.
„They sleep well at night knowing that you’re coming to this magnificent facility…every day to produce excellence — this engine,” he said.
„After 25 years I’ve worked on probably 20 different aircraft, and I’ll say it publicly, my favorite aircraft and my favorite engine – the C-17 and the F117 – just a beauty to behold in all the different ways [they] kept our nation free.”
Although the ceremony was a farewell to the production of the F117, the sustainment of the engine is expected to continue for decades to come.
„Now we are dedicated to keeping this plane flying long enough so that our kids can work on it, too,” Croswell said.
Click here to view the full video of the final production F117 engine ceremony.
Source / Author: Pratt & Whitney
Photo: Pratt & Whitney