Crane factory in Lynnwood plans to double production

LYNNWOOD — The name of the division Jay Higgs runs at Crane Aerospace &Electronics is as dry and obscure as it gets: fluid management solutions.

Yet whether they know it or not, every passenger on a commercial jet appreciates the parts made by his team, especially their fuel flow transmitters, which tell pilots how much fuel they have left. That’s kind of important at 35,000 feet up.

Once a flow meter is installed in a jet engine, customers should “never have to worry about it,” Higgs said.

Thanks to several big contract wins, Crane plans to double by 2020 the number of flow meters it makes for the CFM LEAP engines on the Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A320neo and COMAC C919, and for Pratt &Whitney’s PurePower engine for the Airbus A320neo, Bombardier CSeries aircraft and Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

Crane already supplies about 65 percent of flow meters on the market, and plans on increasing its share.

The company is building a new testing facility at its Lynnwood factory to keep up with the new contracts and airplane makers’ plans to dramatically increase production.

Advances in jet engines are also driving the addition. The newest engines generate much higher pressures and temperatures than their predecessors, with pressures equivalent to those found at 6,500 feet below sea level.

“There’s no other facility we’re aware of that will be able to test at these conditions,” Higgs said.

Crane’s flow meters are mechanical, so testing requires replicating extreme conditions, said Ryan Sands, who manages Crane’s flow meter unit.

The 12,000-square-foot addition is expected to be running by July 2016. Crane plans to increase its fuel flow product team by 23 workers for a total of 60.

The company’s Lynnwood location already has about 800 workers, who design and make flow meters and several other products, such as the battery chargers used on Boeing’s 747 and 737 airplanes.

In 2014 Crane Aerospace &Electronics accounted for about $696 million of its parent Crane Co.’s $2.9 billion profit. The aerospace group is based in Lynnwood. The electronics group is based in Redmond.

The Lynnwood unit began in 1957 as ELDEC. It moved to its current location in 1967, and was acquired by Crane in 1994.

Crane has more products on more airplane programs than ever before. The company puts about 7 to 9 percent of revenue back into engineering, Crane Aerospace &Electronics President Brendan Curran said.

“You don’t need to be the biggest guy; you just need to be the most focused,” he said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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