If you’ve lived in Rockford long enough, you know the name, Sundstrand. Generations of families have worked there. It’s now called United Technologies Aerospace Systems. But, the employee pride is the same.
“When you think about what we produce in Rockford, I would actually put them in two categories: we produce designs and we produce actual hardware,” said UTC Aerospace Sr. Director of Operations, Eric Cunningham.
Roughly 2,000 people work for UTC at two different Rockford locations. At the Harrison Avenue location, employees build power generators. The hardware makes electricity for airplanes. There are several of them on each aircraft, like the Boeing 787.
“You could power a couple of subdivisions with the amount of generating capacity we produce on one 787 airplane. Those generators are all built here in Rockford,” Cunningham says.
They also created the Ram Air Turbine, or RAT, and it’s truly a life-saver. If an airplane loses power, the RAT deploys.
“You hope you never see them deployed, but if they do they’re absolutely critical,” Cunningham continues.
It has a propeller on it that spins in the air stream, which makes electricity.
“[It] gives pilots back their instrument panel,” said RAT Assembly Technician Mike Russell. “[It] literally allows them to fly the airplane as kind of a really big glider. When our RATs have to be deployed and save lives, they work.”
Russell has been assembling RATS for 10 years. He’s been with the company for 40.
The RATS have saved hundreds of lives, like those on board the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight in 2009. A poster in the plant proudly displays the number to show workers what they’re doing matters.
UTCAS has components on every type of Boeing and AirBus jet, as well as aircraft still in development.