Fire in the Prop Department

Due to a disastrous fire at the Dowty propeller factory in February, there are only enough propellers available to support C-130J production through November, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante told a Senate panel Thursday. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s airland subcommittee, LaPlante said the fire was “serious” and was the only source for the propellers. “I can’t promise there won’t be an impact” on the program, LaPLante added, saying he’s “concerned” about the situation, but told Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) USAF will develop a “mitigation plan within a month” on how to address the situation. Dowty provides General Electric with the propellers. Initial assessments estimated that 80 percent of the factory was destroyed. Cotton asked LaPlante if it was a “best practice” to rely on a single-site supplier for such a critical component, and LaPlante replied that the situation is far more common than he’d like. The Air Force and Navy both are reliant on a single “mom and pop shop” to provide critical components for an inertial navigation system, he said. The Pentagon is researching its vulnerability to such dependencies, he added. (LaPlante prepared testimony)