Published May 25. 2012 4:00AM
Pratt & Whitney laid off 300 salaried employees early Thursday, including 200 in Connecticut, in what the jet engine maker said was an adjustment to its cost structure while it awaits a ramp-up of key programs.
Pratt has hired 500 engineers over the last 12 months in its geared turbofan program, but that program will not be in regular production until 2015. Spokesman Bryan Kidder did not say Thursday whether engineers were part of the layoff, which was across-the-board in various areas.
"Taking actions to manage our cost structure today, while continuing to invest in new programs, positions Pratt & Whitney for the long term and ensure a strong future for the company, our employees, customers and shareowners," Kidder said.
Pratt has about 11,000 employees in Connecticut, mostly in East Hartford. The company's roughly 3,000 hourly production employees were not affected by Thursday's cuts, but in March, about 30 hourly positions were cut, the Machinists union said.
Pratt employment has been stable over the last year, and although the company has generally not increased factory production in Connecticut, there is no indication that Thursday's cuts are part of a deeper reduction.
"The growth that we've made in engineering is for those future programs and that's where we've made the investment," Kidder said. "We had been hiring lots of engineers but we also have to balance our investment in our new programs to make adjustments to our cost strucure."
Over the medium term, in fact, Pratt expects its growth to be dramatic. David Hess, the company president, reiterated last month a forecast the company made a year ago, that it expects to nearly double revenues to $24 billion by 2020. That growth, from just under $13 billion last year, will be roughly equally spread between commercial and military programs.
On the commercial side, the geared turbofan, a revolutionary design that allows different parts of the engine to rotate at different speeds, is selling on single-aisle aircraft such as a new generation of Airbus A320s and the Bombardier C Series.
Some legacy engines, however, especially some of the largest engines, are either winding down or not selling as robustly - leaving the company with a gap in revenues until the geared turbofan, branded as PurePower, goes into regular production.
Likewise, on the military side, Pratt's F135 is in production for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and that is expected to support thousands of jobs going forward. But the Pentagon has slowed orders for that aircraft, and orders for the next generation of transport planes are also in the future.
The layoffs come as Prat's parent company, Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., continues cost-cutting efforts. Greg Hayes, the UTC chief financial officer, said last month the company now expects restructuring costs to be $450 million, $100 million more than previously forecast.