There are times in our lives where everything just seems to fall into place. This period could last a week, a month at most. That seems to be about the limit. Most are happy to just have one day every now and then that produces these results. But there have been times when a whole year has produced amazing accomplishments one after another. Louis Chenevert had one of these years in 2011. He led a company into huge financial achievements on a consistent basis that year. And to think, he retired from the company just three years later.
For those that are not familiar, Louis Chenevert was instrumental in the rise of the United Technologies Corporation (UTC). However, his career did not start off with quite the bang. It took a bit of time at the beginning. He had received a bachelor’s degree from HEC Montreal in production management. He put that degree to good use, accepting a position at General Motors. After fourteen years there, he had risen through the ranks to become the production manager. Those fourteen years were the longest he spent with one company. His career was on a good trajectory.
Chenevert changed jobs and started working for Pratt & Whitney. Pratt & Whitney is an American aerospace manufacturer with global service operations based out of Connecticut. It is a subsidiary of UTC. Pratt & Whitney’s aircraft engines are widely used in both civil aviation and military aviation, meaning they not only have contracts with public companies, but also the very lucrative and recession proof military contracts. Chenevert had taken his production management experience from working with vehicles to aircraft.
After six years, he was president of Pratt & Whitney. Then in 2006, he switched over to UTC and became their president and CEO. This was all leading up to accomplishments in 2011. Everything was falling into place quite well. In fact, that year he was given an honorary doctorate by his old university HEC Montreal. You know you are having a good life when colleges and universities are giving you free degrees. Chenevert was also named Person of the Year in 2011 by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. Let’s see how he accomplished these awards that year.
Merging with Goodrich
Goodrich is a global supplier of systems and services to the aerospace and defense industry. It is not difficult to see how it would work well with UTC. Its products include aircraft landing gear, aircraft wheels, and brakes. Goodrich serves a global customer base year in and year out with 27,000 employees worldwide.
Chenevert wanted to merger with Goodrich and spent more than a year in secret talks with Goodrich CEO Marshall Larsen. Finally, in September of 2011, he sealed the deal with $18.4 billion. While this is an immense amount of money, it created a sort of super manufacturer of aircraft systems. With commercial and military contracts already involved through UTC, the combining of the two companies created a one stop shop.
Geared Turbofan Engine
The geared turbofan engine was not initially thought of positively when the concept was introduced by Chenevert. People considered it an expensive pet project of his that cost over $1 billion. However, it was redeemed when being chosen as an option for the Airbus A320NEO. The geared turbofan engine was able to provide an engine for the narrowbody jet market for Pratt & Whitney. They hadn’t had a strong product in this market for over twenty years, so it was a huge deal to finally be able to offer another one.
The engine reduces fuel consumption by 16 percent and emissions by 50 percent. It is easy to see why this engine would be in demand. The geared turbofan engine is now flown by more than 14 airlines on over seventy aircraft. Without Chenevert having the ability to see the importance of this engine in the marketplace, this deal would not have happened. The original investment in it has been paid back several times over. The key thing to remember is anyone can have a great idea, but it is very few that will actually follow through on making their dream a reality. Again, this came to fruition in the year 2011 as well.
No Competition for JSF Engine
In December of 2011, the main competition for supplying F-35 engines to the U.S. Air Force finally dropped out. This left Pratt & Whitney as the sole supplier for these engines for the Joint Strike Fighter. When there is no competition, your business will definitely pick up. Again, this came in 2011 under Chenevert’s watch. This was great news for UTC, since Pratt & Whitney are a subsidiary of UTC.
It all began in 2005 when Sikorsky started developing the helicopter X2 prototype to increase helicopter speeds. The budget allowed was $50 million by UTC since Sikorsky was another subsidiary that UTC owned. On September 15, 2010, the X2 had a 15 percent improved flight speed compared to a conventional helicopter. Because of this, Sikorsky Aircraft and the X2 Technology Demonstrator Team received the Collier Trophy in 2011.
What makes this helicopter so great? On conventional helicopters, “retreating blade stall” causes a loss of lift on one side of the rotor and limits forward speed. The X2 solved this problem with coaxial rotors stacked one above the other. The blades encounter retreating blade stall simultaneously and counteract each other. New technologies, such as active vibration control, fly-by-wire flight controls, rigid rotor blades, low drag hub fairings, and an integrated propeller drive system to prevent excessive vibration and drag are also included. The military is expecting the second generation of these helicopters to replace their current ordinary helicopters, and the newer ones will be flying twice as fast as normal helicopters.
Read more about Chenevert’s success at UTC here!