Heat, Flames Keep Pratt & Whitney Employee 'Fired Up' About His Job

One could say Michael Dixon, working lead, Disk Heat Treat Cell at Georgia Forgings, is used to feeling the heat about his job.

"It's pretty fantastic," Dixon said with a laugh.

Dixon said his position with Pratt & Whitney has been a fiery experience since day one, because what he is doing for the company is important, impressive and intense.

"(My job) is different. I was introduced to a whole new environment. But you can never get lax, never take anything for granted," he said.

Georgia Forgings' Heat Treat Cell is an alley way of highly controlled high temperatures that allows Pratt & Whitney to properly alter the physical or chemical properties of parts to make them stronger and more durable. From a layman's perspective, what Dixon manages is pure eye candy.

"You have some people who come in and they look at it, you know, especially visitors, some who haven't seen this before, and they're in awe," Dixon said from his manned cell.

Part of his daily responsibilities is overseeing what's called an oil quench, a proven process that Pratt & Whitney has used for years.

"Every part has a different quench. We have air, we have water, and oil. Each one yields a different property, based on their particular need where that part is placed in the engine. It changes the molecular structure of the part based upon that quench," Dixon said.

After a part is in a furnace for a calculated amount of time, it's then moved by what's called a "pace car" to an oil quench station. Like the furnace, different parts require different hold times for quenching. The fireworks begin not long after a hot part meets hot oil.

"You have to be real attentive to what's going on. You can't become so lax so to speak. You have to watch what's going on in the cell. Also, being aware of your surroundings at all times because we are sticklers for EH&S," Dixon said.

The process ends at a wash station where the part is inspected for any distortion. From "A" to "Z," it's a task involving extraordinary heat to build extraordinary parts, all done with proper work instructions and safety gear firmly in place. Indeed, Dixon welcomes the heat in his Pratt & Whitney kitchen, creating recipes that simply can't be duplicated.

"Out of all these years I've been working here, I have a high respect for oil quenching," he said, "it gave me the opportunity to think more. It sharpens your skills."

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