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May 28. 2014 9:46PM

Ayotte tells GE employees: Country's defense relies on you


Sen. Kelly Ayotte engaged in several one-on-one conversations with GE Aviation employees during her visit to the Hooksett facility. (Ryan O'Connor/Union Leader Correspondent)

HOOKSETT — For GE Aviation in Hooksett, $1.32 billion in additional government funding for Boeing’s Growler jet equates to 44 engines, and thousands of man hours.

The U.S. Navy, which has 138 Growlers currently on order, has requested 22 additional aircraft, at two GE Aviation-produced F414 engines apiece, but the allocation remains an “unfunded priority” by the government.

“That (F)414 engine, which powers the Growler, we’ve been making parts for since its inception, and we make everything from tubes, to sectors, to blisks, which basically covers every product line we make,” said GE Aviation Hooksett Plant Manager Doug Folsom. “It is one of the most technologically advanced engines we make.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, fresh off a trip to Ukraine, toured the facility before holding a town hall meeting with dozens of the company’s employees, answering questions ranging in subject from immigration to Social Security to her recent endorsement of Scott Brown for U.S. Senate.

The topic at the top of her priority list, of course, was defense spending, and how it impacts GE Aviation employees and their fellow Granite Staters.

“Without having the best aircraft, the best equipment for our men and women in uniform, we couldn’t ask them to go into harms way and do what they do for us to keep us safe, so you’re a very important part of what our military does for our country,” Ayotte told those in attendance.

Folsom said the Hooksett facility produces roughly 100 engines a year, meaning at least an additional half year of work for his employees.

“(The F414 engine) a big huge part of our current infrastructure within the plant,” he said. “It’s hard to put a number on exactly how many employees are working on the 414, but military makes up about 40 percent of our total volume here in Hooksett, and the 414 is the second biggest engine program on that military family.

“It really helps us to continue to employ our folks that work on those parts, and it keeps the line running,” he added. “Once you shut a line down, it’s really hard to get it started again, so keeping that going is a big part of the program.”

Ayotte serves on both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and is the ranking Republican on its aviation subcommittee, all of which have influence on interests that impact GE Aviation, she said.

“The defense authorization that just came out of the Senate is actually putting money back into the Growler,” she said. “We don’t think we should eliminate the Growler, and so this is an issue we’ve been working on that has a direct impact here. It’s not over yet. We need to continue to watch this issue through the appropriations process.”

Ayotte said she’s written the Senate Appropriations Committee to stress the importance of funding the Growler.

“This is an important company, and these are good paying jobs," she said. "They’re doing important work, both for the commercial aviation industry, but also for our men and women in uniform, and what they do in producing parts for a number of airframes, but also for the Super Hornets and the Growlers, is very important to the defense of this country, and so I’m just appreciative of seeing up-close and personal the great work being done here, but also to do an old-fashioned town hall with the employees. They had some great questions.”

Prior to arriving in Hooksett, Ayotte also visited the Nashua Municipal Airport, Boston Air Traffic Control Center in Nashua, and Boston TRACON facility in Merrimack.

roconnor@newstote.com



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