United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), a Dow Industrials component company, came out with an earnings report that surprised even those who were most optimistic about the company's performance.

The company, a diversified manufacturer that produces a range of products from Sikorsky helicopters to Carrier air conditioners to Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, absolutely blitzed earnings with results that were higher by 42% for its second quarter over last year's: $837 vs. $632 million, or $1.66 per share vs. $1.26.

Such bodacious returns makes one look under the hood for acquisitions that juiced the top line, or for one-time gains, or other things that you could use to have such performance make much sense. I mean the company knocked the cover off of the ball.

The conference call (accessed courtesy of CCBN) gives a bit of a clue here, as there was a $0.14 tax benefit that the company characterizes as one-time in nature. Even subtracting this back out, United Technologies' bottom line increased 17% over last year.

If you paid attention to the improvement in commercial aviation results at General Dynamics' (NYSE:GD) division, you'd know that what had been an extraordinarily soft market has rebounded, and as such United Technologies' three commercial aircraft-related businesses, Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney, and Hamilton Sundstrand, all surged as well.

One note of potential trouble for the firm is a pending European Union investigation into whether Otis violated the EU's anticompetitive rules, following an announcement in March that some Otis employees may have engaged in anticompetitive conduct. The investigation apparently came as part of a widespread set of snap investigations in Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg, and United Technologies stated yesterday that it could be subject to substantial financial penalties.

We've tracked United Technologies for some time, first covering it for Motley Fool Select -- the precursor to Hidden Gems -- two years ago when the company was struggling mightily and in need of a massive restructuring to trim head count and get rid of some flab. This is exactly what has taken place; one would not suggest that the company is struggling today, and most of the restructuring costs, which had the effect of making its results look worse than they were, have come to a close. United Technologies continues to be a cash flow story, with its free cash flow (cash from operations minus capital expenditures) coming in at $953 million, well higher than net revenues.

On the conference call, CEO George David noted that this quarter was "as good a one as the company has ever had." That's good to know, because United Technologies jacked up its expectations for the remainder of the year, so it anticipates results being worthy of an encore. Were this a company that played the press release and expectations game to the hilt, I'd brush aside its projections. It doesn't -- when it says things look good for the future, it's most likely because things actually do look pretty darn good.

Bill Mann does not own shares of any company mentioned in this story.