Sky-high passion

George D. Mitchell Jr.’s interest in helicopters began about the age of 10 when he was growing up in Ansonia. “A neighbor started to tell me about the work he did as a flight inspector for Sikorsky Aircraft. It struck me by the way he spoke how much he loved what he did and the pride he felt for Sikorsky. That no doubt sparked my passion for aircraft that could fly vertically and horizontally with revolving overhead blades. It also inspired me to pursue my dream of one day working for what sounded like a great company.”

Fortunately, the youngster was also mechanically inclined – something he no doubt inherited from his grandfather, who was a welder, and father, who worked in the home improvement business – a talent he would need in order to qualify for acceptance by a college to successfully pursue a degree in engineering. In 1983, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology-Manufacturing from Central Connecticut State University. It was a very proud moment for him and his family as he was the first Mitchell to graduate from college.

With degree in hand, the young man applied for a job at Sikorsky and soon after was hired as a junior manufacturing engineer. Over the next 10 years, he worked literally on the nuts and bolts of producing precision aerospace parts for the latest line of helicopters that the legendary manufacturer was making for the military and commercial markets. During this time, Sikorsky’s search and rescue HH-60 Jayhawk made its first flight and the VH-60N helicopter, used to transport the president of the United States and VIPs, entered service.

In 1991, Sikorsky helicopters played a key role in Operation Desert Storm, one of a number of significant contributions the company’s aircraft would make in conflicts and disasters in the years ahead that would make Mitchell and “everyone who works here fiercely proud to be part of the Sikorsky legacy.” He cited how Sikorsky helicopters saved the lives of U.S. service members in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, rescued hundreds of people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, aided in the relief of the victims of the Southeast Asia earthquake and tsunami and safely and quietly, under the cover of night, safely transported the Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden.

Mitchell’s 30-year and counting career track took a significant turn when he was promoted to chief engineer. Meanwhile, he obtained a Master of Science degree in Organizational Management from Central Connecticut State University. Now he was on his way to gaining increased responsibility and recognition for his leadership in the areas of operations, manufacturing and engineering.

Among his notable contributions that have helped the company to manufacture more streamlined, faster and efficient helicopters to meet the rigorous demands of the modern military, Mitchell is an inventor with four patents to his credit. One, in which he served as co-inventor, improves the process of manufacturing lighter weight gears. Three others are innovations in tooling components that save costs. His body of work has contributed, for example, to the development of the latest Black Hawk UH60A which is “more capable of lifting heavier payloads and has more lift and speed,” Mitchell says. Building on Mitchell’s innovations, Sikorsky’s next generation attack helicopter, known as the X2, is a game-changer for tactical missions with the ability to move at unprecedented speeds of upward of 220 knots and soar as high as 10,000 feet and more.

As vice president of Defense Systems and Services, Aircraft and Support, Mitchell and his team provide product support for more than 5,000 Black Hawks around the globe via a network comprising 1,200 field service specialists. Under his direction, his team has also managed numerous aircraft-based maintenance programs domestically and internationally.

Though Mitchell has been acknowledged for his achievements with numerous company accolades as well as community service awards for his work with the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, Valley United Way and Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, he proudly proclaims that his wife, Shirley, and three children – Stephanie, Amanda, and Katherine – as the “single greatest accomplishment of my life.” He especially loves celebrating holidays with the family at their Oxford home.

Thanksgiving is especially close to his heart because it is not only a wonderful occasion to be with his loved ones but it’s often a time when he starts a new home improvement project. Working with his hands to create something uniquely his own remains his favorite lifelong hobby. This year’s endeavor is a new hardwood floor for the living room. That, and doing his own landscaping around the house, are about as terra firma Mitchell can be when not thinking about how to make Sikorsky soar to even new heights.

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