HOOKSETT — The employees of the General Electric Aviation plant can expect another takeoff in their workload following the company’s successful bid to produce the T901-GE-900 engine for the next generation of engines in the U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Announced on Feb. 1, the $517 million contract bid represents the end result of a multi-year design, testing and application process within the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) to replace the aging T700 engine, a GE model that has been powering both the Apache and Black Hawk since the 1970s.
Company officials expect the half-billion-dollar contract to be a windfall of productivity for the Hooksett plant, which serves as one GE Aviation’s largest suppliers of blisks, or bladed disks, a solid piece of milled metal that is housed within the compressors of the company’s jet and helicopter engines.
“Our sites like Hooksett are great at what they do. Using engineering and supply chain together to really bring forward the best product that we can,” said GE Aviation’s lead media relations specialist Nick Hurm.
“The T700, we’ve been producing for about 46 years, and this gives us the opportunity for the next contract. We could keep building and servicing the T901 engine for decades. That’s where it really has its biggest impact for the Hooksett site.”
The Evendale, Ohio, based aviation giant’s successful helicopter bid and its implications for the Hooksett site come on the heels of record growth that the location has seen over the course of the last five years.
In 2015, GE Aviation broke ground on a new $50 million, 65,000 square-foot expansion at the Hooksett facility in preparation to meet record engine demand for the company’s LEAP engine, developed in 2014 to power Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 jetliners.
Like the T901, LEAP depends heavily on the blisks being milled at the Hooksett site, a component that Hurm says helps to improve the power and fuel efficiency of the aircrafts that they’re placed in.
“It makes the engine more efficient and that’s the ultimate goal — the holy grail of everything is efficiency,” said Hurm of the blisks. “As the next generation, that’s really what you want to serve the missions that the Army needs and is looking for.”
Over the past decade, the company says they have invested $9 billion in maturing technologies applicable to the T901, more than $10 billion in their supply chain.
Hurn said it was too soon to tell whether the new contract would mean job growth for the 900 employee strong Hooksett manufacturing plant, but he did express optimism for the location’s future.
“When you have a contract like this, it definitely doesn’t hurt,” he said. “As we move forward, I think all of those things will come to fruition. But right now it’s definitely positive news for the Hooksett site.”