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Importance of quality highlighted during
VP-TECH tour of UTC Aerospace Systems

March 11, 2016

Video slideshow from the UTC Aerospace Systems tour shown above.

ROME – Students in the Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES recently had the opportunity to tour UTC Aerospace Systems in Rome to learn about the many jobs there related to what they’re learning.

Students join VP-TECH in ninth-grade, and through a program that can last up to six years, they will leave with a Regents diploma, an associate degree in quality assurance from Herkimer College and a certification in advanced manufacturing.

Julie Hall, UTC Aerospace Systems human resources generalist, led a presentation for the VP-TECH students that explained the company’s advanced manufacturing work and its focus on quality assurance.
When asked by VP-TECH teacher David Dow what the company looks for in employees, Hall highlighted the value of what VP-TECH students are learning and the careers they’re being exposed to.

“This program is amazing,” Hall said. “This is an example of what we’d be looking for as far as academically and actual hands-on work, so it’s great to have that background.”

The VP-TECH tour of UTC Aerospace Systems at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome took place on Tuesday, March 8. There was a presentation for the students followed by a detailed tour through the facility.

VP-TECH Principal Brittany DerCola said it’s important for the students to hear what Hall had to say about VP-TECH and realize that companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems value VP-TECH.

“I think that’s good for them to hear,” she said. “It kind of reinsures them on the choice that they made to come here and be a part of this.”

At the presentation, Hall said she graduated from Ilion before it became Central Valley and moved to New York City because she didn’t know of the job opportunities in this area, before moving back and working for UTC Aerospace Systems.

Hall then explained the background of UTC Aerospace Systems being a business of United Technologies, which has almost 200,000 employees and many other businesses such as Otis, Pratt & Whitney and Carrier.

“It is gigantic in terms of the scope of what our organization does,” Hall said.

UTC Aerospace Systems in Rome has 210 employees. Nearly all aircraft today rely on systems and components from UTC Aerospace Systems, which is one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced aerospace and defense products for business, military and commercial aircraft, according to the company.

Ben Morczek, manufacturing engineering supervisor, told students that tail drive systems for helicopters are the most frequently built products at the company. The major product lines are aircraft shafts and couplings, hydraulic power units and power transmission couplings, he said.

UTC Aerospace Systems handles designing, analyzing, manufacturing, testing, repairing and marketing products, Morczek said.

Morczek also showed photos of helicopters and talked about finding a way for them to fold up to fit better inside of a large ship. Hall compared it to folding up toys to fit them in a toy box – just on a much larger and more important scale.

“That’s technology that’s being developed here in this building,” Hall said.

Doug McNeil, non-destructive testing supervisor, discussed work such as ensuring the quality of welding with various methods such as ultrasonic testing and magnetic particle testing.

McNeil said you have to be confident, prideful and detailed in your work.

“Quality is of the utmost importance here,” he said. “You have to plan quality into the process.”

Justin Hodge, quality engineer, talked about inspecting parts and signing off on the quality of parts for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Because UTC Aerospace Systems tests and approves the products, the commercial buyer doesn’t have to worry about testing the product after receiving it, so it’s your responsibility to make sure products meet their requirements, Hodge said.

“That’s up to us, so you have to make sure you’re paying attention,” he said.

John Voelkle, quality technician II, who noted her studied machine trades at Herkimer BOCES in the 1970s, also spoke about the importance of inspecting products.

“You have to check them to make sure that things going out the door are correct,” he said.

Ben Nolette, quality supervisor, explained that he was a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Air Force before coming to UTC Aerospace Systems, so he knows the importance of quality products.

“I was kind of the user of these products. I flew all over the world in helicopters, and it gets pretty scary at times,” Nolette said. “Attention to detail probably takes precedent over anything we do.”

VP-TECH student Joseph Caldwell, 14, of Herkimer, said the tour of UTC Aerospace Systems was “cool” and showed the importance of quality assurance jobs.

“It’s a lot of work to make sure your product is good and that when it goes into the bigger product, it’s not going to fail – that when it goes into an airplane, the whole system isn’t going to fall apart,” he said. “Quality is a very big part of your product.”

DerCola said she was impressed that UTC Aerospace Systems highlighted finance, engineering, manufacturing, quality assurance and other jobs.

“I think it was great for the students to see all the different jobs involved there,” she said.

It was also nice for the students to see all of the unique and high-tech work being done in the area, DerCola said.

“They were impressed that parts for airplanes that they fly on are being made right in Rome, and they didn’t know that,” she said. “I think it’s good for them to be exposed to all these opportunities.”

VP-TECH students at UTC Aerospace
Students from the Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES pose with UTC Aerospace Systems employees outside after touring the facility in the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome on Tuesday, March 8. To learn more about VP-TECH, visit vp-tech.herkimerboces.schoolfusion.us.

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