July 11 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin has agreed to keep a helicopter plant in Pennsylvania open at least temporarily, reversing plans announced early last month.
Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson confirmed a Twitter post by President Donald Trump about the company’s subsidiary Sikorsky keeping a plant open in Coatesville, 39 miles west of Philadelphia.
“I was just informed by Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, of her decision to keep the Sikorsky Helicopter Plant in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, open and humming! We are very proud of Pennsylvania and the people who work there,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday night.
Later Wednesday, Hewson responded after Trump’s tweet.
“At the request of President Trump, I took another look at our decision to close the Coatesville, PA facility and have decided to keep it open while we pursue additional work,” Hewson said in a statement by Lockheed Martin. “It’s a good operation with an excellent workforce. We look forward to working with the government and PA Congressional delegation to find more work for this facility.”
In June, Sikorsky announced plans to close the Pennsylvania plant by the end of the year and consolidate work at other factories, including its headquarters in Connecticut. Lockheed purchased Sikorsky from United Technologies Corp. in 2015.
Company spokeswoman Callie Ferrari had told The Philadelphia Inquirer the decision “was made due to the prolonged downturn in the global helicopter market, and Sikorsky’s need to balance footprint and workforce with customer and market requirements.”
The plant employs about 465 people and is involved in the production of the S-92 and S-76, as well as work on the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program.
Previously the plant produced a the Sikorsky VH-92 aircraft for use by the president and other White House travelers, commonly called Marine One.
Numerous people besides Trump have sought to keep the plant open, including both of the state’s U.S. senators.
“I am pleased that following the June 10, 2019 letter I sent, along with the efforts of @RepHoulahan and other local elected officials, Lockheed Martin heeded our call to keep the plant’s 465 workers on the job,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., posted on Twitter.
Christina Marie Houlahan, a former U.S. Air Force officer, represents Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, which includes Coatesville, where the plant is located.
She had introduced legislation that would effectively force Sikorsky to slow work on its remaining government helicopters in an effort to keep the plant open longer.
“This decision is a temporary reprieve and our work is not done,” Houlahan tweeted.
Casey also was cautious about the announcement.
“While this announcement is an encouraging first step, I am concerned that the announcement lacks a specific plan to bring new work to the Coatesville facility that would keep the plant open beyond the next several months,” Casey tweeted.
He added in a tweet: “I will continue to fight to grow and preserve family-sustaining jobs in Southeastern Pennsylvania and across the Commonwealth.”
Sen. Pat. Toomey, R, Pa., tweeted: “Lockheed Martin’s commitment to keep operational the Sikorsky helicopter plant in Coatesville provides short-term certainty for 465 workers, who were expected to either lose their jobs or be relocated later this year. Many thanks to President Trump, my congressional colleagues, and community leaders with whom I worked to prevent the plant’s immediate closure.”
Six helicopters are under construction currently in Sikorsky’s Coatesville campus and are due to be complete this fall.
Several other major helicopter plants are located in the Philadelphia area.
Boeing’s Ridley Park employs about 4,600 making and upgrading Chinook CH-47s and vertical-take-off Ospreys, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Leonardo AgustaWestland factory employs more than 600 building civilian helicopters and plans to partner with Boeing to build Air Force helicopters.