Cracks in Alcoa’s 50,000-ton Mesta Machine Co. press, which occupies its own building at the Cleveland complex, forced the company to cease production from it in September 2008. The press had been used to produce parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. The Cleveland plant has a contract to forge and machine the units for Lockheed Martin Corp., the prime defense contractor, in a contract worth more than $360 million. Although other forging presses at the facility have taken up some production, the long-term implication is that the repair will be expensive ($68 million) and that Ohio may permanently lose some jobs if it is not made. This prompted a letter from Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, to Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. The letter urges Alcoa to proceed with the repair and consider the welfare of its employees in making its decision about how to proceed.
Precision Castparts Corp., the maker of titanium bulkheads for Lockheed’s F-22 jet, says it is ready to boost output of similar parts for the F-35 jet if needed. According to Precision Castparts, it owns the only other 50,000-ton press in the United States and has the capability to raise output. At this point, there has been no disruption in the flow of F-35 parts from Alcoa to Lockheed because of the press cracks.