PMA urges lawmakers to fight to keep Chinook upgrades on schedule

H-47 Chinook helicopter.  

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association (PMA) sent letters to nearly 20 lawmakers, urging them to stand with Boeing employees and their families that could be harmed if the Army chooses to delay upgrades for its Chinook helicopter.

The PMA sent the letters to U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown), Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Madeleine Dean (D-Glenside), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Swarthmore), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Reading), Susan Wild (D-Allentown), Matt Cartwright (D-Scranton), Daniel Meuser (R-Palmyra), Scott Perry (R-Wormleysburg), Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), John Joyce (R-Chambersburg), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Greensburg), Glenn Thompson (R-Bellefonte), Mike Kelly (R-Butler), Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), Michael Doyle (D-Pittsburgh); and Sens. Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.).

"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 in the March 18 letters.

Marrara wrote 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, it will affect workers at the plant and cost many jobs. Marrara noted that jobs are in jeopardy both at the plant and across Pennsylvania due to Boeing's parts suppliers and vendors across the state.

"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 the representatives and senators to affirm their commitment to the aerospace workers in Pennsylvania and their families. He urged them to act now to ensure the workers can continue to build the next generation of the helicopters.

Ridley Park has more than 4,000 employees, about half of whom work on the Chinook helicopters. The PMA is not the first to urge the Army not to delay the upgrades.

Sen. Toomey sent his own letter to Army Secretary Mark Esper earlier in March, expressing concern about the possible delay in the Block II upgrade of the Army's CH047F Chinook helicopter fleet. He also urged the Army to not halt the upgrades.

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 article that Pennsylvania is essential if President Donald Trump wants to be reelected 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.

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