‘We are laying ownership for the next 100 years’

Charest heaps praise at facility’s launch

The formal launch of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s $360-million, 300,000 square-foot engine-assembly plant drew lavish praise Friday.

But what, precisely, will be its mandate has yet to be fully disclosed.

“Today,” said Premier Jean Charest, “we are laying ownership of the aerospace industry for the next 100 years.”

Louis Chênevert, chairman and chief executive officer of Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Canada’s parent, called it “a historic moment.”

Pratt & Whitney Canada president John Saabas said the plant’s economic impact “will be felt for decades to come.”

The event unveiled the second half of the sprawling facility.

The section will conduct the final assembly for geared turbofan engines, including the PW1524G for Bombardier Inc.’ s CSeries future airliner, in development and due for delivery in 2013, as well as for the PW800 engine for business jets.

The plant will also make the GTF engines for other aircraft projects in various stages of development.

In October, Pratt & Whitney Canada launched Mirabel’s first phase, the flight-test centre. The whole facility is expected to employ about 300 people when fully operational in 2016.

But a key question remains unanswered: will the plant also do the final assembly for a larger GTF motor that will power the Airbus A320neo?

David Hess, president of Hartford’s Pratt & Whitney, the immediate parent of Pratt & Whitney Canada, said that “sometime this year, we’ll decide on where we’ll build the engines for the (A320)neo.”

“We’ve got a lot of growth in front of us and we’re going to decide where to put it all.”

“But certainly (Mirabel) is a candidate. It’s a beautiful facility.”

That would be a coup for Pratt & Whitney Canada; Airbus expects to sell about 4,000 A320neos over 10 to 15 years.

The Longueuil-based engine-maker still makes the PT6 general aviation engine developed in the 1960s, Saabas noted, an early investment that keeps paying dividends, including on the engine’s periodic modernization.

Charest noted that Quebec has provided $250 million in financial aid to Pratt & Whitney, a quarter of the $1 billion the firm has invested in Quebec. Pratt & Whitney has also received federal aid.

On repayment of taxpayers’ contribution to the company, Charest would only say that some amounts will be repaid on royalties – a certain amount per engine sold after a certain period.

There are no details on the interest rates of the loans.

Saabas, though, said that his company has spent $8 billion on R&D since 1982 and will devote another $2 billion in the next five years.

Charest stressed that investments in aerospace are for products that have a shelf life measured in decades.

“This is a day of great pride for all Quebecers,” she said. “The aerospace industry is us, it’s you here in Quebec. The future of the industry belongs to Quebec.”

Behind the high-flying rhetoric at the event lies a significant phenomenon; after being basically shut out of the regional-jet industry and being relegated to a laggard spot in commercial aviation engines for decades, analysts say, Pratt & Whitney is poised to take the lead again with cleaner and quieter engines.

And Bombardier can take credit for being the catalyst. It was the first to order the GTF engine for the CSeries, before either even existed.

Source: MontrealGazette.com

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