Big gains and bold moves in the aerospace industry earned United Technologies Corp. Chairman and CEO Louis Chênevert the title of Aviation Week and Space Technology’s Person of 2011.
Chênevert saw technological gambles pay off in 2011 when orders for Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan began to take off and Sikorsky’s X2 high-speed technology demonstrator helicopter received the Collier Trophy. He also brokered an $18.4 billion deal to buy Goodrich Corp.—UTC’s first major aerospace acquisition since 1999, according to Aviation Week, and one the Wall Street Journal cited as a sign of a shift to a more aggressive merger-and-acquisition strategy. In the same year, the company formed a new joint venture with Rolls-Royce to challenge GE in the engine market for midsize commercial jets.
Aviation Week said Chênevert “rocked the aerospace and defense (A&D) industries with a string of bold moves that improbably came together in a single year.” The Goodrich acquisition, a year in the making, could round UTC’s suite of aerospace properties, which already includes Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, and Hamilton Sundstrand; and the geared turbofan—“the centerpiece of Chênevert’s decade-long fight to make UTC’s Pratt & Whitney unit a player again in commercial jet engines,” according to Aviation Week—gained ground in the industry when it was offered as an option for the Airbus A320NEO.
Chênevert began his career in the automobile industry and joined Pratt & Whitney Canada in 1993. Rising through the ranks at UTC, he stood by Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan project through his seven-year tenure as its president; Time magazine recently passed over the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to describe the more fuel-efficient engine as “the most important development in aviation in 2011.”
Aviation Week said Chênevert personally brokered the Goodrich deal, first approaching Goodrich Chairman and CEO Marshall O. Larsen about it in September 2010. The deal was signed Sept. 21, 2011. Chênevert, who was scheduled to give a keynote address at AOPA Aviation Summit Sept. 22, was unable to deliver the address because of the transaction; Pratt & Whitney President David Hess, who addressed the crowd for Chênevert, confirmed the deal.