Pratt & Whitney Family Thrives on Competition, Speed

Compression Systems Module Center Cell Leader Mike Schmidt, who works in the cases manufacturing unit, has a slow and steady walk as he makes his way through the Middletown facility. Perhaps you wouldn't notice that, simmering under that purposeful stroll, is a man who loves speed.

He loves the speed his company's engines provide to make jets fly, and he loves the speed his engine provides to make his boat … well … fly.

"About a hundred miles an hour," Schmidt said smiling from his garage in Durham. A sleek, hydroplane boat sits behind him as he answers questions about an engaging hobby.

Schmidt floats, flies and competes in what's called the U.S. Title Series 250cc Hydroplane Racing Circuit.

"We actually lay down on our stomach when we drive it," Schmidt continued, "because it keeps the center of gravity really low and aerodynamically, it's efficient as possible."

Now where would a guy get the inspiration to be a human water rocket? The answer is found at Pratt & Whitney, from Mike Schmidt's co-worker, and father, Mike Schmidt senior, a former hydroplane racer himself. Father taught son about the sweetness of success, but young Mike and his brother Eric has to wait a bit.

"My wife was against them racing boats," the older Schmidt said, also at his son's garage. "They raced motocross for nine seasons. I'm very proud of him."

But when Mike turned 21, the water called and Mike answered. Now, father and son share two passions, boat racing and Pratt & Whitney. Soon, the pair head to Florida in late October to compete in the World Championships. Co-workers are often fascinated by this adrenalin-laced hobby.

"I get a mix of 'cool' and a bit of crazy," the younger Schmidt said, a big grin on his face. His father offers a different perspective.

"It's not so much the boat racing part of it," he said. "It's, 'You drove all the way to Tennessee this weekend for a boat race and went to work?' Yeah, we're more distance truck drivers than boat racers."

Speed. Some work for it, and others work hard at it. It just so happens that Pratt & Whitney houses a family that does both.

"It's essentially like driving a piece of plywood at 100 miles per hour," Schmidt said.

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