Aerospace industry flying high in Bridgeport

Aerospace industry flying high in Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — The large jet engines are hoisted up by mechanical winches, moved into the large cement-lined test cells and cranked up to full power to make sure they can safely handle the rigors of flight.

Outside the sealed cells — literal wind tunnels for the fully-functioning engines — the noise of the accelerating turbofans can be clearly heard as the technicians sitting at a type of virtual cockpit run the aerospace technology through a litany of tests.

At the Pratt & Whitney Canada engine service center in Bridgeport, jet and propeller-driven engines from planes the world over are torn apart, inspected, repaired, reassembled and tested before being returned to whatever private owner or corporate customer they came from.

It’s a process repeated around 40 times a month, as the multi-million Pratt & Whitney engines are overhauled and readied for service on the aircraft they were pulled from.

With the repairs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for each engine, the facility’s customers list includes investment bankers, multinational corporations with company jets, the heirs to Hilton Hotels and even the Nigerian presidential air fleet.

The well-choreographed routine that Pratt & Whitney’s employees have perfected is just one example of the small but growing aerospace industry that calls West Virginia home. There are about 10 aerospace companies in Bridgeport, most surrounding the North Central West Virginia Airport, and those companies have become big players in the local economy.

At a time when other parts of the state are trying to find ways to diversify their economies away from extractive industries, Bridgeport is benefiting from continued growth in an aerospace industry that local and state leaders, including former senator Robert C. Byrd, have fostered over the past several decades.

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