It was a tough choice – a career as a musician or as an aerospace engineer. Bradford got the best of both worlds. His daytime job is with Pratt & Whitney, but he’s a familiar sight in Connecticut’s music scene, playing the drums on weekends with fellow musicians from Pratt & Whitney and other groups in the area.
Raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Bradford became fascinated with aircraft on his flights to and from the United States. “I had the opportunity to see inside the cockpit,” he says. “I saw the incredible array of technology and I decided that I wanted to be a pilot.”
A high school teacher who mentored him suggested he learn not only to fly but also to design aircraft. “At first, I wasn’t sure I had the makings of an engineer,” he says. “I’d always loved gadgets and tinkering with things. But math – not so much.” Even so, he took his instructor’s advice and enrolled in the aerospace program at Oklahoma State University. He was introduced to Pratt & Whitney at a campus career fair.
Today, he is working on Pratt & Whitney’s Advanced Engines Program. A recent assignment was to design the front frame for a potential military propulsion system. The forward frame is referred to as the Fan Inlet Case and it typically supports a bearing and can be used to mount the engine to the aircraft. A primary challenge is providing anti-icing protection on engine inlet flow path surfaces. Bradford's design applies a unique casting technique to provide a low cost, low weight, and low part count solution is currently being manufactured for validation testing.
He says he is especially drawn to the design side of aerospace engineering, which he describes as a balance of art and practicality. “It’s like looking at a beautiful building and seeing the mind of the architect behind it.”
As he quickly saw, there are a lot of brilliant minds in Pratt & Whitney. “I am in the company of amazing people,” he says. “They have helped me grow and understand the inside workings of a beautiful machine that takes you 30,000-plus feet into the air. Even more than the technical side, I enjoy the camaraderie here.”
As for flying lessons? “That’s on hold for now,” says Brad. “But it’s still in my plans.”