Boykin, Sharahn D. Daily Times
SALISBURY– More than half of the Labinal Inc. local work force stood behind the aerospace and defense manufacturing plant on Glenn Avenue looking up at the sky through clear protective glasses Tuesday morning.
The small crowd of 650 employees, some wearing navy blue company T-shirts, were waiting for “the Army’s workhorse” — the U.S. Army Chinook cargo helicopter — which was built from parts manufactured at the plant daily.
Labinal, a subsidiary of the SAFRAN Group, is a high-tech company that manufactures electrical wiring systems for aviation, space and defense sectors. The company purchased Salisbury-based Harvard Custom Manufacturing in 2010, where about 800 workers are employed.
The chopper’s arrival Tuesday marked the first time an aircraft has landed in the plant’s parking lot. For some, it would be the first time they would see the fruits of their labor.
The crowd applauded at 10:01 a.m. as the tan chopper with twin rotors flew over the building and circled around as it prepared to land on the asphalt. With cellphones in hand, several workers raised one arm in the air to record video and photographs of the aircraft before it touched the ground four minutes later.
“It usually means a lot for us to come out and let you see what you do everyday,” said Lt. Col. Bradley J. Killen, the pilot who flew the helicopter. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without you.”
The Chinook has been used by the Army to transport ground forces, supplies, ammunition and other cargo since 1962, according to the military branch’s website. The main cabin of the 23,401-pound chopper can hold up to 33 troops or 24 stretchers.
“This local aerospace and defense contractor is proud to support the Army’s workhorse in a domestic and global marketplace,” said Anthony Rodriguez, the senior operations manger of the Salisbury facility.
More than 300 Labinal Salisbury workers are part of a team that make the cables, harnesses and electromechanical assemblies for the chopper.
“Having the recognition of the end customer is the ultimate testament to our legacy as a company that takes a lot of pride in customer satisfaction,” said Jorge Uribe, Labinal’s U.S. director of operations. “Labinal Salisbury employees should be proud of this important distinction and achievement.”