LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - GE Aviation in Lafayette is assembling new Passport engines alongside the popular LEAP engines already in production
The announcement came today as community leaders celebrated the plant's fifth year of business.
"If I can have more products, I have a chance to face more challenges ahead in the aviation industry," says Renato Vidal, Lafayette plant leader.
The main difference between the two engines is high volume versus high performance. LEAP engines are in high demand for aircraft like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 Max.
The Passport engine is a high-power engine built for long distances and reliability. It will power a business jet called the Bombardier Global 7500 Series.
Vidal says two to three Passport engines will be assembled per week compared to 10 to 11 LEAP engines per week.
"When you compare both products, I usually say that, of course, the volume you can't compare, but the technology inside of both of them is really impressive," he says.
Vidal says the versatility of the Lafayete facility is the secret to rebounding from COVID-19.
"Of course, you have some orders that were postponed or some airlines that are not being able to use the aircrafts right now with the same demand that we had before," he says.
The plant has reduced its workforce by 22 percent since the pandemic began.
"Right now, I think one of the main challenges that we have, like we mentioned here today, is to not only secure the jobs that we have, bring some people back, but add future jobs," Vidal says.
The plant originally planned to hire up to 300 people but right now employs 150 people.
"The expectation that we have is that within the next year, or the next couple of years, we can definitely bring back people and keep growing the site as the original plan was," Vidal says.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski says he's happy so far with the plant's progress.
"It takes a while to get a facility like this ramped up and to get the people hired," he says. "You've got to have a lot of qualifications, you've got to have certifications."
Roswarski says production of the Passport engine was moved from Kansas to Lafayette.
"That says a lot about what GE corporate thinks about this facility, thinks about this community and it's long-term future," he says.