The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association (PMA) sent a letter to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R–Levittown) this week urging him to stand with Boeing employees and their families that could be harmed if the Army chooses to delay upgrades for its Chinook helicopter.
"I write today to highlight an urgent issue that could impact Pennsylvania workers and families: the U.S. Army's intention to delay funding for the modernization of the H-47 Chinook helicopter," PMA Vice President of Government Affairs Carl A. Marrara wrote.
Marrara noted that workers at Ridley Park's Boeing plant have been building the helicopters for nearly 60 years and if the Army chooses to delay the new upgrades, that will affect workers at the plant and cost jobs. Jobs are in jeopardy both at the plant and across Pennsylvania due to Boeing's parts suppliers and vendors across the state, Marrara noted.
"Any delay to these upgrades would also undermine Pennsylvania's aerospace reach across the world," Marrara wrote. "Besides the U.S. Army, 19 foreign countries and countless state and local first-response units use Pennsylvania-built Chinook helicopters to respond to natural and man-made disasters, including humanitarian operations, food and emergency medical-equipment delivery and search-and-rescue missions."
Marrara asked Fitzpatrick to affirm his commitment to the aerospace workers in Pennsylvania and their families. He urged the congressman to act now to ensure the workers can continue to build the next generation of the helicopters.
Of the 4,200 Ridley Park employees, about half work on the Chinook helicopters.
Forbes contributor Loren Thompson believes that although production would not completely cease, it would slow to a crawl, which would raise prices. Thompson also noted in the Forbes story that Pennsylvania is essential if President Donald Trump wants to be re-elected and that lost jobs would not bode well for his 2020 presidential hopes.
Block I upgrades will wind down in 2023, which is when Block II is set to begin.
The Block II upgrade was supposed to address problems with new rotor blades, a new fuel system and improvements to the helicopter’s drivetrain and airframe, according to The Weekly Standard, making it so that the next wave of helicopters could carry a larger load farther and more safely than current models.