This year we celebrate the 90th anniversary of Pratt & Whitney. A lot of aviation history has occurred over those 90 years. In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently cited that no invention has made a greater impact on the world over the past 85 years than the jet engine. A great deal of aviation's history and milestones can be attributed to the people of Pratt & Whitney. We will look at some of that history over the next 12 months, not just to tell us about the past, but how we got where we are today and where we are headed. Let's start at the beginning.
On August 3, 1925, 24 men and two women reported for their first day of work in the old Pope-Hartford auto plant on Capitol Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. It still smelled of the tobacco that had been stored there after car building stopped. The group was led by a 38-year-old Ohioan who was determined to build a new and better aircraft engine. Frederick Rentschler got financial backing and a name from on old line machine tool company and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft was in business. Rentschler and his people didn't have a whole lot to start with: two lathes, two milling machines, two grinders, a vertical, a horizontal and a hand milling machine, a radial drill and two small drills, along with some benches with vises.
Rentschler later recalled that the founding of "the Aircraft" didn't even "cause a ripple." "In fairness to our new community, it is perfectly honest to point out that there was just no reason in the world why they should have paid us any attention."
The real assets of the new company were those 26 people with the skill and determination to invent a new powerful and dependable air-cooled radial engine. Skeptics said it would not work. They were wrong. By Christmas Eve 1925 the first "aircrafters" assembled the first Wasp.
One of the company's original machinists, Henry Cudworth, spotted something in those days that has carried on for 90 years, a passion for excellence. "The early group was an inspired and wonderful lot. They were after perfection in order to build an engine that could be relied on. They sure succeeded."
Rentschler expressed it another way: "It seemed very definite that the best airplane could only be designed around the best engine."
Striving for the best has sustained our company for these 90 years as we have faced the toughest technical and business challenges and reinvented Pratt & Whitney time and again. Maybe that is why our 90-year-old company is still as fresh and vibrant as those first folks back in 1925. From the Wasp to the Geared Turbofan and the F135, it has always been about perfecting the best engine.