Saturday, July 14, 2018

Week in review (7/8 to 7/14)

Representatives from the Gulf Coast who will be attending the July 16-22 Farnborough Air Show in England have a lot more to boast about then in years past. There's a lot more recognition of this region, and it may lead to attracting more companies.

During the week we learned that the Bombardier CSeries jetliner that will be built by a joint Airbus-Bombardier company has been given a new name. It will be the A220-100 and A220-300, the 300 model the one with the longer fuselage for more seating.

The new name, complete with a new paint scheme, was unveiled at a ceremony held at its Henri-Ziegler Delivery Center near Toulouse, France. The aircraft are for the 100 to 150 seat market and complement Airbus' existing A320 family.

Airbus is a majority holder in the partnership, which will lead to a new assembly line in Mobile, Ala., directly north of the current A320 series assembly line. (Post)

That rebranded model also got its first customer under the new name. JetBlue, which is also the first customer to take delivery of a U.S.-built A320, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 60 firm orders for A220-300 model.

The airline also converted 25 of its current orders for Airbus A320neo into orders for the larger A321neo. The company’s A321neos and A220-300s will be powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF engines.

Airbus manufactures, markets and supports A220 aircraft under the recently finalized "C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership" (CSALP) agreement. (Post)

Speaking of Airbus, it is partnered with logistics giant DB Schenker on a logistics plan to use waterways to transport components to the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Mobile. The plan reduces the use of roads for transport.

Using a new roll-on/roll-off terminal, its barge, and a newly-dredged section of river, Airbus can use larger vessels to transfer components by water. Larger ocean going vessels are now being used for the international transport of four complete “ship sets” per month. The new logistics plan includes a refurbished pier at the production plant and construction of a new hangar. Airbus first used the new logistics setup for a shipment in May. (Post)


Employment
OK, job-seekers, listen up.

GKN Aerospace has hired 40 people to work at its new manufacturing facility at the airport near Panama City and is actively recruiting and training more new employees, officials said early in the week at a press conference at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility at Gulf Coast State Community College.

GKN has partnered with the college to help train employees.

The building at Venture Crossings is completed and equipment is being moved into the facility. By next year, officials say they will hire 172 people and be producing aircraft component parts.

GKN has invested $55 million in the facility and equipment. Kim Bodine, executive director for CareerSource Gulf Coast, said more than 900 people since last August have applied for the jobs on the CareerSource page taking applications. (Post)

On the subject of jobs, you may want to put in the back of your mind that in October, the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter will have a special, larger issue that will focus on the education and training options for folks interested in getting involved in the region's growing aerospace/aviation field. It promises to be a keeper whether you're a parent, student, worker or company official.


Air show
The Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team is performing in two shows close to home over the next couple of weeks. The first one, at Pensacola Beach, Fla., is this weekend and the second one will be in Biloxi, Miss., next weekend. The team, which uses F/A-18 jets, is headquartered at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Post)


Contract
Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $41.2 million modification to an order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This modification increases the ceiling and extends the period of performance on the delivery order to provide test, maintenance and logistics support services to sustain MQ-4C Triton unmanned air system (UAS) air vehicles, mission control and operator training systems. Work will be performed in Maryland, California, Florida and Guam and is expected to be completed in March 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity. Northrop Grumman does fuselage work on Global Hawk variants, including Triton, in Moss Point, Miss.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Week in review (7/1 to 7/7)

It was bound to happen. Less than a week after Airbus and Bombardier closed on the deal where Airbus took a majority stake in the Bombardier CSeries jetliner, Boeing agreed to take a majority stake in Embraer's jetliner business.

The new deal, which still has to be approved by stakeholders and the government of Brazil, will add a smaller single-aisle aircraft to the Boeing portfolio. Chicago-based company will hold an 80 percent ownership stake in a joint venture valued at $4.75 billion. (Post)

In the earlier Airbus-Bombardier deal, Airbus now owns a 50.01 percent majority stake in CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP), while Bombardier and Investissement Québec own about 34 percent and 16 percent, respectively. CSALP's head office, primary assembly line and related functions are based in Mirabel, Québec, ground will be broken this year on a second assembly line in Mobile, Ala., at the site where Airbus builds A320 series jetliners. (Post)

Both the Airbus-Bombardier and Boeing-Embraer deals are changing the landscape of competition to build jetliners. Bombardier and Embraer were once seen as potential competitors, and now they are part of two larger teams.

Airbus and Boeing both face the possibility that they'll one day be competing against aircraft built by China and Russia, but that will be a long time coming.

The C919 is a narrow-body twin-jet passenger jet built by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). It’s designed to compete with the Airbus A320 series and the Boeing 737 family. Russia’s competitor in this category is the Ikrut MC-21.

How well those competitors will do outside their home countries is yet to be seen. The single-aisle market is dominated by Airbus and Boeing, which produce hundreds of these aircraft each year. They have a global supplier chain in place and an impressive track record.

Cracking that duopoly is no small feat. The new competitors still face a long road ahead and a lot of hurdles. But something to keep in mind in an age where jet manufacturers are finding ways to join forces. Russia and China have also shown a willingness to work together. They are jointly developing a wide-body jet through the China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation.

In other items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week:


Space
An Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 rocket engine that will be used in a reuseable military aircraft has gone through a series of tests at NASA's Stennis Space Center, the rocket engine test facility in South Mississippi. The engine, a variant of the RS-25, was tested over a 10-day period, fired up for 100 seconds and then doing it again 24 hours later. (Post)

-- Relativity Space will be one of the few domestic players in a segment of the market dominated by foreign firms. This could put the company, which is focused on building 3D printed rockets, in an advantageous position to compete for military contracts. A launch site in the United States will be selected later this year. The company expects to fly its Terran 1 rocket by late 2020, with a goal to start commercial launches in 2021. Terran’s 3D printed engine, named Aeon 1, is being tested at Stennis Space Center, where the company signed a 20-year lease. (Post)


Military
Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., is where generations of naval aviators have learned to fly. Started at the height of World War II to meet the nation's demand for aviators, Whiting will soon mark its 75th anniversary. (Post)


Contracts
DynCorp International, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $14.9 million contract modification for continued contractor operated and maintained base supply support. Work will be performed at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Randolph AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas; Vance AFB, Okla.; Air Force Combat Systems Officer at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.; Navy Naval Flight Officer at NAS Pensacola, Fla.; NAS Whiting Field, Fla.; NAS Corpus Christi, Texas; NAS Patuxent River, Md. (satellite), and Army Aviation Flight Test Directorate (satellite). Work is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2018. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Training Aircraft Division, Joint Primary Aircraft Training System, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems, Annapolis, Md., was awarded a $9.9 million modification to the previously awarded contract to exercise options for the accomplishment of depot level repair, maintenance, and modifications of the AN/AQS-24 mine detecting system to support the Navy for the currently deployed airborne mine countermeasures legacy systems. Work will be performed in Annapolis and is expected to be completed by April 2019. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Week in review (6/25 to 6/30)

Could the Gulf Coast or some other location in the Southeast make a pitch to Boeing to build a new line of aircraft? There are still a lot of ifs – the most important being that Boeing hasn't yet decided whether to even build the plane, the design of which was revealed last year at the Paris Air Show.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. A lot of areas were in the competition when Boeing was looking for a place to build the 787 Dreamliner, and a lot were also in the hunt when Airbus – the corporate name at the time was EADS – was looking for a site to build aerial tankers.

Aircraft assembly lines are one of the real jewels of economic development. In addition to the value of the assembly line itself and the workers who are hired, it also has a big impact on the supply chain. Companies worldwide start lining up to supply a variety of items for the new jetliner.

Areas along the Gulf Coast were among the finalists for the 787 site, but Boeing eventually decided to build it in Washington State, home of Boeing’s manufacturing center. It later opened up a second line in South Carolina. And the EADS plan? Mobile was chosen, and while the company did not win its bid to build the tankers, Mobile did become the site for what is arguably a far better deal, the A320 series assembly line.

And now Mobile will become the site for a second assembly line, this one to build Bombardier CSeries jetliners. So will Mobile or other regional economic development officials go ahead and make a pitch for the 797 aircraft?

Panelists at the recent Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference held in Mobile had something akin to a why-not attitude. Certainly South Carolina, home to Boeings second 787 final assembly line, seems a natural to put in a bid. So too Alabama, where both Mobile and Huntsville are powerful contenders for aerospace production operations. Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi are also potential contenders with their own aerospace claims to fame.

We know of one area for sure that's in the hunt. Washington State is already preparing to do what it can to keep work on the New Midrange Aircraft – called the 797 – in that state. A Teal Group analysis, commissioned by a Washington coalition, was highly favorable for Washington and its skilled aerospace workers, and of course the state is holding up that study as ammunition.

It will be up to the other cities and states whether to make a pitch to Boeing, and while some of the preparatory work may be happening behind the scenes, it all depends on whether Boeing gives the thumbs up to the project and opens it up to bidders.

It makes sense that any location that was on the short list for the 787 and aerial tanker might consider going after this project. There are some must-haves for a project of this nature, including a port so sections can be shipped in, a runway where the finished product can tested and then turned over to a customer. And of course it needs to show it has the skilled workforce needed for aerospace work.

The 797, intended to fill the market betweeen the 737 and 787, was just one of the topics that came up during the week at the two-day inaugural Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference held at Mobile’s Battle House Hotel.

During Wednesday's gathering, officials said ground would be broken this year for the new Bombardier CSeries assembly line that will be built in Mobile, a move that by 2021 will make Mobile the world’s fourth largest jetliner assembly center and second largest in North America.

The CSeries plant will be next to the Airbus A320 final assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex as a result of a partnership between the two manufacturers that will be finalized Sunday. That happens to be Canada Day – the celebration of the day in 1867 that three colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick merged into a single dominion.

During the conference, Rob Dewar, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Aerospace, who becomes head of customer services and engineering Sunday, said he expects the first CSeries jetliner built in Mobile to be delivered in mid-2020.

The assembly line in Mobile will build the CS100 and CS300, which have the same assembly process. The difference is the CS300 has a longer fuselage. Dewar said it would take about a year to build the assembly line, which eventually will produce four jetliners per month and employ 400 workers.

The aircraft, by the way, will get a new name, but the announcement has not yet been made.

Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility, said at the conference that Airbus in Mobile has delivered 75 jetliners to seven customers. The most recent was delivered Tuesday to Frontier Airlines.

He said the Mobile facility is beginning a new chapter with the CSeries assembly line. He said that by 2021, Mobile will be the fourth largest jetliner manufacturing center in the world, and second largest in North America. (Post)

About 115 participants from 10 countries were on hand Tuesday for the opening session. They were welcomed by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who noted that Mobile’s history with aerospace goes back many years, but the footprint is destined to get larger.

Also coming up during the conference was a study that said it was feasible for Mobile to shift commercial jetliner service from Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the downtown airport, closer to Interstate 10 and downtown.

Chris Curry, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said moving commercial service will not hinder industrial tenants, like Airbus, who were consulted during the study to ensure any move would not jeopardize their operations. (Post)

The Leeham Company/Airfinance Journal conference will be at a different location in the Southeast next year. Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co., said it's always been the intent of organizers to rotate the annual conference. Nobody asked me, but for what it's worth Scott, put South Louisiana and South Mississippi on the list of potential sites for a conference. That's where you'll find Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility, both involved in NASA and commercial space programs. You might also consider Northwest Florida, where Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 integrated training center and the place where the Air Force develops its aerial-launched weapons. Just a thought.

Hamilton said the intent of the inaugural conference was to introduce the Southeast and its aerospace clusters to suppliers who aren’t familiar with opportunities in the Southeast. This year’s focus was the transformation that’s underway in manufacturing that suppliers must prepare for and the innovation that’s coming to produce future airplane.

We’ll have multiple stories resulting from this conference in the August issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter.

Also during the week:


Expansion
Northrop Grumman has added an operational area to its Moss Point, Miss.-based manufacturing center. The 101,000-square-foot Moss Point facility has been doing work on unmanned fixed-wing and rotary-wing systems since 2006.

The expanded production facility can now accommodate projects on manned aircraft systems and will bring 60 new jobs to Moss Point. The number of employees at the site grow by more than 40 percent since 2017, officials said.

Gov. Phil Bryant and members of Mississippi’s federal and state delegations attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the official launch of the new machine shop section at the Moss Point facility. Northrop previously said it would do subassembly work on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Moss Point. (Post)


Bases
The U.S. Navy is preparing future plans to construct detention centers for up to 25,000 illegal immigrants on remote bases in Alabama, Arizona and California, according to a copy of a draft memo obtained by TIME.

The Navy planning document outlines plans to build tent cities for up to 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields in Baldwin County, Ala., at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach and NOF Silverhill.

But U.S. Sen. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), said he’s prepared to fight a migrant camp in Baldwin County. "We have successfully fought efforts to house illegal immigrants in Baldwin County before, and we will do the same again because the proposal makes no sense," Byrne said. (Post)


Unmanned
Australia is to acquire six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime unmanned aerial systems, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced during the week. The first RAAF Triton is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2023.

Triton can fly at altitudes above 50,000 feet and has an endurance of more than 24 hours. Northrop Grumman does fuselage work on Triton in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- The Coast Guard will equip National Security Cutter ships with ScanEagle unmanned aircraft, including the cutter Decisive that arrived at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., in June.

Decisive is one of four cutters expected to change homeports to Pensacola this year. The drones have aided the Coast Guard in the interdiction of $1.5 billion worth of cocaine and heroin off the coasts of Central and South America.

The drone weighs 40 pounds and can fly up to 20 hours. (Post)


Contracts
Bell Boeing JPO, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded $4.2 billion for a modification to convert the previously awarded V-22 tiltrotor aircraft advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee multiyear contract. This contract provides for the manufacture and delivery of 39 CMV-22B aircraft for the Navy; 34 MV-22B aircraft for the Marine Corps; 1 CV-22B for the Air Force; and 4 MV-22B aircraft for the government of Japan. One work location is Crestview, Fla., where 0.72 percent of the work will be performed. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $19.9 million for a modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the low rate initial production Lot 10 Non-Annualized Sustainment Contract Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) 3.0 rollout. This modification provides for the ALIS 3.0 software fleet release and installation into operational and production ALIS assets as well as required training to U.S. Government and international partner personnel in support of the F-35 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Annapolis, Md., was awarded a $14.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for the fabrication, testing, production and delivery of AN/AQS-24C mine hunting sonar systems. The system is deployed from the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Seventeen percent of the work will be performed in Panama City, Fla. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $96.1 million modification to a contract for Lot 11 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer vehicles and support equipment. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $93 million contract for Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) F/A-18E/F integration. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … A. Finkl & Sons Co., Chicago, was awarded a $419.6 million contract for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production. This contract provides for the production of the BLU-137/B penetrator warhead bodies with a guaranteed production of 300 bodies during the first year with a possibility of up to 3,500 bodies in the subsequent four years. Air force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Superior Forge and Steel Corp., Lima, Ohio, was awarded a $476.9 million contract for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production. This contract provides for the production of the BLU-137/B penetrator warhead bodies with a guaranteed production of 300 bodies during the first year with a possibility of up to 3,500 bodies in the subsequent four years. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Enterprise Electronics Corp., Enterprise, Ala., was awarded an $11.6 million contract for the procurement of Supplemental Weather Radars (SWR) systems and associated sustainment services. Work will be performed in Enterprise and is expected to be completed by June 2023. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $1.5 billion contract that provides for the production and delivery of 22 F/A-18E and six F/A-18F Super Hornets in support of the government of Kuwait. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., will perform 0.8 percent of the work. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $73.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to stand-up depots outside the continental U.S. for the maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade of the F-35 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Week in review (6/17 to 6/23)

Do we really need another military branch – a U.S. Space Force – or is it more cost-effective to look at improving what we already have?

Of course, new branches have been created before. The Air Force was created in 1947, when the Army Air Corps was split off to create a new military branch. The Air Force itself already has its own Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Created in 1982, the command has operations worldwide, including the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base. The squadron has a powerful radar system that has been keeping an eye on space for well over 40 years.

A side note here. The C-6 site at Eglin is highlighted on page 43 of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2017-2018 reference book. You can get the PDF of Chapter II, Space Activities, by clicking here. The item on C-6 is on page 43 in the book, but the last page of this 11-page chapter.

Adding another branch will mean more bureaucracy, an entire chain of command of its own, and a decision will have to be made whether to spread the defense dollars to take into account an additional branch or, as I suspect, put even more dollars into the Department of Defense.

And consider this: In addition to the Space Command, we already have the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that focuses on space. True, its mission is not military, but how long before some of that expertise is shifted over to a new military branch?

Although President Trump has instructed the Pentagon to explore establishing a new military branch, it can't be done without the approval of Congress. So stay tuned. We'll be keeping an eye on this.

-- While we’re on the subject of space, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, Calif., was awarded a $69.8 million modification to a previously awarded other transaction agreement for the development of the AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

This action implements Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.

Work will be performed in Canoga Park; Sacramento, Calif.; Centennial, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. The work on the AR1 is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, and the work on the RL10CX is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- In another space-related item during the week, BWX Technologies Inc. opened an office in Huntsville, Ala., and will begin developing aerospace products that include a nuclear propulsion system.

The company has a contract with NASA to create conceptual designs for a nuclear thermal reactor that could power a spaceship to Mars. BWX Technologies was created through the breakup of the power company Babcock and Wilcox. It is headquartered in Lynchburg, Va.

The company's Huntsville site director is Gene Goldman, a former director of NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi and acting center director at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville. Goldman presented a $5,000 check from the company to help develop the planned Alabama Cyber and Engineering School in Huntsville at the ceremony. MSFC oversees SSC, NASA’s primary rocket engine testing center. (Post)


Conference
The inaugural Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference will be held at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa this week.

It brings together suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, aerospace companies, financiers and investors, with an emphasis on building for the future.

Topics at the conference will include the Airbus Final Assembly Line, CSeries program and final assembly line, developing aerospace clusters in the Southeast, the evolving aerospace cluster in Mobile and more. (Post)


Unmanned
The Navy’s unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout began a new series of operational testing this month aboard the USS Coronado (LCS 4) off the coast of San Diego. The operations are a continuation of MQ-8C operational testing that began in April.

This phase of testing is for the MQ-8C's ability to operate concurrently with other airborne assets and Littoral Combat Ships. The enhanced capability will provide commanders an improved and integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance picture.

During Coronado's 2016-17 deployment to the Western Pacific, it successfully used an MQ-8B Fire Scout – a smaller version of the Fire Scout – as a sensor to strike a target beyond visual range using a Harpoon surface-to-surface missile.

Also last year, the MQ-8C had its first launch from the deck of an LCS underway.

Final assembly work for the Fire Scout is done by Northrop Grumman in Moss Point, Miss. LCS 4 was built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. (Post)


Airports
A study on the feasibility of moving passenger flights from Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the Downtown Mobile Airport at the Mobile Aeroplex showed it would be beneficial, but could take three to five years to complete.

The Mobile Airport Authority, which oversees Mobile Regional Airport and Mobile Aeroplex, launched the study in February and released results Wednesday morning. The hope is that by moving commercial air service closer to downtown and right off of Interstate 10, there will be more travelers and eventually more carriers, which in turn will lower to cost of flying.

MAA Executive Director Chris Curry said 47 percent of travelers who might be expected to use Mobile go to competing airports. Curry said accommodating passenger traffic without inconveniencing the Aeroplex’s industrial aviation tenants will require a balancing act, but the challenge can be managed. (Post)


Military
At Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Navy Cmdr. Zachariah Aperauch turned over command of Training Squadron TWO (VT-2) to Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Jackson during a change of command ceremony at the Whiting Field North Field hangar.

Under Aperauch, VT-2 flew more than 52,500 flight hours in the completion of more than 23,350 sorties, and 619 students completed the primary flight training. Jackson assumes command after a tour as executive officer of VT-2. He has 22 years with the Coast Guard, and earned his wings in 1999 after completing primary flight training with VT-2. Navy Cmdr. Wesley Barnes replaces Jackson as executive officer for the squadron. (Post)


Contracts
Orocon-Carothers JV2, Oxford, Miss.; Whitesell-Green Inc., Pensacola, Fla.; The ARTEC Group Inc., Sarasota, Fla.; Desbuild Inc., Hyattsville, Md.; Southeast Cherokee Construction Inc., Montgomery, Ala.; Leebcor Services LLC, Williamsburg, Va.; and Howard W. Pence Inc., Elizabethtown, Ky., were awarded a $75 million construction contract for design-build construction projects at various locations within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed provides for, but is not limited to, new construction, repair, alteration, and related demolition work. After award of this modification, the maximum dollar value for all seven contracts combined will be $174 million. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Florida, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $175.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification provides for the development, testing, and activation of 13 different F-35 component repair capabilities in support of the F-35 Lightning depot implementation plan for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Week in review (6/10 to 6/16)

Airbus inaugurated a fourth A320 series production line in Hamburg, Germany, during the week in a move that will help the company ramp up production of the popular single-aisle jetliner. And it could have implications for the company's production line in Mobile, Ala.

According to Reuters, the new state-of-the-art production line utilizes robots Luise and Renate – named by workers – to work alongside human workers. The new line will help Airbus deal with an eight-year order backlog.

Airbus is ramping up production of the A320 from 50 to 60 planes per month. The company has sold 8,000 of the jets with another 6,000 on order. The new final assembly line in Hamburg has a top rate of 10 aircraft per month, which it will reach by mid-2019, according to Reuters.

Luise and Renate will help to drill over 2,000 holes to join the two halves of the fuselage together, work normally done by humans. According to Reuters, they form part of a new final assembly line where the fuselage and wings are transported by automated moving tooling platforms, rather than being lowered by cranes onto fixed jigs, and where dynamic laser tracking is used to perfectly align aircraft parts.

Klaus Roewe, head of the A320 series program, told reporters in Hamburg that around one-third of the new technologies on the new final assembly line could potentially be transferred to other lines in Hamburg, France, China, and the United States - i.e., Mobile. The Mobile assembly line now produces four A320 aircraft each month.

Speaking of Mobile, Hawaiian Airlines took delivery of its first U.S.-produced A321 during the week. The jetliner is the first produced in Mobile with the new engine option, thus it's an A321neo.

It's powered by a Pratt & Whitney PW1000G high-bypass geared turbofan engine. Executives and employees from Airbus and Hawaiian, and executives from Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems witnessed the milestone delivery. (Post)

In other Gulf Coast aerospace news during the week, the June issue of the bimonthly Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter was published and is now available to readers – without charge, of course, thanks to our underwriters. This issue updates the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2017-2018, a 100-page reference book that was last published in June 2017. This newsletter fills the gap between that issue and the one we will publish in June 2019.

The current newsletter includes an executive summary highlighting new aerospace activities in the region since last year. That includes the possibility of a second assembly line in Mobile, new rocket engine work at Stennis Space Center and the opening of a new maintenance, repair and overhaul hangar in Pensacola. There's also a new F-35 reprogramming lab at Eglin Air Force Base. The newsletter includes one-page updates of each chapter from last year’s book. (Post)


Space
In Huntsville, Ala., the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Todd May, is retiring effective July 27. May is being replaced on an acting basis by Marshall's deputy director, Joan A. "Jody" Singer.

May was first named acting director of Marshall in 2015 and then took over the position on a permanent basis. Before that, the native of Fairhope, Ala., managed the Space Launch System.

Marshall is NASA's chief center for rocket propulsion. It has more than 6,000 government and contractor workers in north Alabama and at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $503.2 million modification to a previously issued delivery order placed against basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for air vehicle initial spares, to include F-35 deployment spares packages, afloat spares packages, and associated consumables required to support the air vehicle delivery schedules for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. This modification combines purchases for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and non-DoD participants. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., was awarded a $91.1 million contract for digital video laboratory support. The contract provides for improvement and modernization of capabilities using digital data in support of the Air Force test mission. Air Force Test Center Specialized Contracting Branch, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Week in review (6/3 to 6/9)

The grand opening of a new maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Pensacola, Fla., the upcoming closing of a deal between Airbus and Bombardier that will bring a new assembly line to Mobile, Ala., and the assembly of a rocket engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss., for DARPA were among the key news items during the week for the Gulf Coast Aerospace region.

But before we get to that, I want to remind you we'll be publishing our eight-page June Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter next week. This one will provide updated information on the chapters that appeared in the aerospace corridor book published in June 2017. Enough has happened that it made sense to provide an update since our next reference book won't be published until June 2019 – a year from now.

OK, that settled, now for your week in review:

Airbus-Bombardier
The Airbus-Bombardier partnership, which will result in a final assembly line for CSeries jetliners in Mobile, will close July 1. The CSeries assembly line will be built north of the current Airbus A320 series assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex.

All regulatory approvals required for the closing have been obtained, officials announced Friday. The deal gives Airbus a majority stake in the CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP).

The head office, primary assembly line and related functions will be based in Mirabel, Quebec. But the additional assembly line in Mobile will help the expected demand for the single-aisle jetliner. The deal was initially announced in October 2017. Bombardier delivered 17 aircraft in 2017, and is gearing up to double its deliveries in 2018. (Post)

Airbus itself is becoming an old hand at assembling and delivering A320 series jetliners at its Mobile plant. As of the end of last month 71 aircraft have been delivered to customers. It's building four planes a month. And spokeswoman Kristi Tucker said the company is excited about the Bombardier project.

"All of us at Airbus are excited to welcome the employees of the CSALP into the extended Airbus team, and to welcome the CSeries aircraft to Airbus' product offerings ... It will also be exciting to see us grow further in Mobile."


Airports
Meanwhile, to the east of Mobile, Pensacola, Fla., had its own celebration Friday.

The VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Pensacola International Airport held a grand opening with a ribbon-cutting at the hangar on the north side of the airport.

The $46 million project in Pensacola is the second MRO operation for VT MAE in the region. It has had an MRO in Mobile, Ala., since 1991, where it employs more than 1,000 people. The Pensacola facility will employ about 400.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was on hand to mark the grand opening in Pensacola. Workers already have their first project, a UPS aircraft that's in the brand new hangar for routine maintenance. (Post)

-- In another Pensacola airport item, PSA Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, plans to open a new maintenance facility at Pensacola International Airport. It will create up to 35 jobs and support PSA's efforts to grow its fleet by about 20 aircraft.

PSA will be looking for mechanics, leads, inspectors and stores personnel. PSA said Pensacola International Airport was an ideal location for the new facility because the area provides a sustainable workforce, a strong local military presence and an abundance of technical schools.

PSA currently has maintenance facilities in Dayton, Canton and Cincinnati, Ohio; Norfolk, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga. (Post)

-- Allegiant Air announced during the week that it would be adding six new nonstop flights out of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. The flights will be to VPS from Bentonville, Ark.; Charlotte/Concord, N.C.; Evansville, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. Allegiant also serves Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. (Post)

-- Three airports in the Gulf Coast region are among those awarded grants by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will award $677 million in airport infrastructure grants, the first allotment of the total $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program funding for airports across the United States. The 241 grants will fund 346 infrastructure projects that include runways, taxiways, aprons, and terminals.

In this region, H.L. (Sonny) Callahan Airport in Fairhope, Ala., will receive a $3 million for construction of a taxiway. Baton Rouge Metropolitan will receive $4 million to improve the runway safety area. Picayune Municipal will receive $630 million to construct a taxiway and install taxiway lighting. (Post)


Space
At Stennis Space Center, Miss., Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed assembly of its first AR-22 rocket engine built for Boeing as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Experimental Spaceplane, called Phantom Express.

The AR-22, derived from the Space Shuttle Main Engine that was designed from the outset for reusability, is the main propulsion for Phantom Express. The AR-22 is capable of generating about 375,000 pounds of thrust and was designed to fly 55 missions with service every 10 missions.

The reusable Phantom Express will take off vertically and land horizontally. The vehicle will be equipped with an expendable second stage capable of placing up to 3,000 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit.

Aerojet Rocketdyne assembled the AR-22 at its facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, where it also will undergo a series of daily hot-fire tests starting this summer to demonstrate its ability to support the high flight rates envisioned for Phantom Express.

The tests will be used to refine Phantom Express flight and turnaround procedures. (Post)


Sale
In a deal expected to be finalized this summer pending regulatory approvals, L3 Crestview Aerospace will be sold to New York investment firm American Industrial Partners as part of a $540 million cash deal.

The investment firm will acquire two components of L3 Technologies – Vertex Aerospace, which includes L3 Crestview Aerospace, and TCS. Vertex Aerospace provides aviation logistics and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services, and TCS provides engineering services and logistics support.

American Industrial Partners has a portfolio that includes Ascent Aerospace, Shape Technologies Group, Optimas, and REV.

L3 Technologies announced late last year that the Crestview plant, an aircraft component manufacturer that employs 500 people at Okaloosa Industrial Air Park, was up for sale. In addition to the Crestview plant, L3 Crestview Aerospace includes a plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, that produces sheet metal and parts for commercial aircraft. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $735.7 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract. This modification provides additional advance procurement funding for the procurement of long-lead time materials, parts, components, and effort in support of the F-35 Lightning II Low Rate Initial Production Lot 13 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps. The modification also provides economic order quantity funding for procurement of material and equipment that has completed formal hardware qualification testing for the F-35 program for use in procurement contracts to be awarded for the F-35 program low rate initial production Lots 13 and 14 for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $14.4 million contract for emerging capabilities and analysis systems engineering to include programmatic, and logistics tasks that will analyze the F-35 air system's ability to meet future operational requirements, investigate cost and weight reduction program options, and conduct modeling and simulation activities. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $9.3 million delivery order for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) C++ Conversion Phase II. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Bell Boeing JPO, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded $47.4 million for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This delivery order procures non-recurring engineering, production, supportability, and management necessary to facilitate the incorporation of optimized wiring and structural improvements on the nacelle into the V-22 production line and via forced retrofit at the depot level of maintenance for previously delivered V-22 aircraft. Four percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Week in review (5/27 to 6/2)

The VT MAE maintenance, repair and overhaul facility will officially open next week at Pensacola International Airport. The $46 million MRO will provide jobs for 400 to 500 workers.

There will also be an open house Saturday, the day after the official opening.

VT MAE has its primary MRO operation in Mobile at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, where it’s been doing that kind of work since the 1990s. The new facility in Pensacola is an expansion. The company is part of VT Systems of Alexandria, Va., a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore-based ST Engineering.

Speaking of Mobile, that city next week will host the SEUS-CP Conference, a U.S.-Canadian trade conference that was scheduled well before the controversy over trade began to bubble up.

The Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces event should have some lively discussions about trade since the Trump administration has imposed a tariff on steel and aluminum imports, and Canada has responded with tariffs on some U.S. goods.


Military
An MQ-9 Reaper squadron will be based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., by late 2019. It will be the second Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) installation to host a drone unit.

AFSOC's active-duty MQ-9 Reaper drone personnel have previously been assigned only to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The squadron will bring an additional 60 personnel to Hurlburt, according to the Air Force.

The unit is a Mission Control Element Squadron. Drone operations require two separate aircrews, a mission control element responsible for executing missions, and an aircrew to handle takeoffs and landings.

There's another drone unit at Hurlburt Field, the 2nd Special Operations Squadron, part of the Air Force Reserve’s 919th Special Operations Wing located at Duke Field near Crestview. It's been based at Hurlburt Field for four years. Its personnel fly drones remotely in various places around the world.

It was just six months ago that the Air Force announced plans to bring a drone squadron to Tyndall Air Force Base, 80 miles away near Panama City. (Post)


NASA
NASA selected 304 proposals from U.S. small businesses to advance research and technology in Phase I of its 2018 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and 44 proposals for the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, totaling $43.5 million in awards.

Those selections support NASA's future space exploration missions, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. Five selected SBIR proposals and four selected STTR proposals are being monitored by Stennis Space Center, Miss. The SBIR Phase I contracts last for six months and STTR Phase I contracts last for 13 months, both with a maximum funding of $125,000. (Post)


F-35 contracts
United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded $2 billion modification to a previously awarded contract in support of the F-35 Lightning II low-rate initial production Lot 11 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $46.6 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This delivery order provides for non-recurring engineering, the development of design documentation, and the creation of modification instructions. These efforts will support service life extension and enable the developmental test F-35 aircraft to maintain currency with delivered technology. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in June 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.


Other contracts
Emerald Coast Utility Services Inc., Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded a maximum $13.8 million modification, incorporating the economic-price-adjustment agreement to the existing 50-year contract with no option periods, for the water/wastewater operations and maintenance and renewal and replacement utility service charge. Location of performance is Florida, with a June 14, 2067, performance completion date. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va. … Kaman Precision Products, Orlando, Fla., and Middletown, Conn., was awarded a $69.4 million contract modification to an already existing contract for exercising an option for the joint programmable fuze. Work will be performed in Orlando; and Middletown and is expected to be completed by June 1, 2020. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Pivotal Software Inc., San Francisco, Calif., was awarded a $47.5 million other transaction agreement. Work will be performed in San Francisco; Cambridge, Mass.; Denver, Colo.; Washington, D.C.; Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; Shaw AFB, S.C.; Al Udeid AB, Qatar; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Langley AFB, Va.; Ramstein AB, Germany; Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Battle Management, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the agreement activity. … Raytheon Missile Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $14.1 million contract modification to a previously awarded contract for Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile production Lot 32, for 18 additional AIM-120D missiles. Work will be performed in Tucson with an expected completion date of Jan. 31, 2021. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Dominance Contracting Office, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Week in review (5/20 to 5/26)

One of the more intriguing aviation issues in the Gulf Coast aerospace region is the possibility that Mobile, Ala., may transfer commercial air service from its airport in suburban west Mobile to the Mobile Aeroplex south of downtown.

The Mobile Airport Authority is waiting for the results of a feasibility study, expected next month. This possible move has received a lot of attention, in part because it's so unusual. According to a story in al.com, the usual trend is for airports in a downtown area looking to move to the suburbs, where there's more room for growth. Indeed, that's what happened in our region's Panama City, Fla., where the airport moved from downtown to a site in a rural part of Bay County.

But this study is for a move from suburban Mobile County to the urban center.

Mobile Regional Airport has handled commercial flights since 1986. The Mobile Aeroplex, formerly called Brookley Field, today handles cargo and general aviation, and is also an industrial hub – most notably the location where Airbus builds A320 series jetliners and where Bombardier hopes to build its CSeries jetliners. And those are just two of the aviation activities.

It will be interesting seeing the pros and cons that surface. I can tell you now that one of the arguments in favor is that a downtown location will be more convenient for air travelers since it's right along Interstate 10, and is likely to be more appealing to air travelers from fast-growing Baldwin County to Mobile's east.

But it will also bring a lot more air traffic to the facility, which is currently used by UPS and FedEx for their operations.

It's not hard to see why the Mobile Airport Authority is looking at this issue. Mobile Regional Airport has fewer boarding passengers than any of its Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor neighbors, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The big dog, of course, is Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, which is in a category by itself in this region with 5,569,705 enplanements in 2016, up from 5,329,711 the previous year.

To the immediate east of Mobile, Pensacola International Airport had 792,916 enplanements in 2016, up from 787,916 the previous year. Further to the east, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport at Eglin Air Force Base had 440,002 enplanements in 2016, up from 373,072 in 2015.

Going further to the east, Northwest Florida Beaches International, a new airport that replaced the downtown Panama City airport, had 434,302 enplanements in 2016, up from 428,704 the previous year.

Next in the number of passengers is Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, to the west of Mobile, which had 305,157 enplanements in 2016, down from 317,154 the previous year. The Mississippi airport is the only airport in the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor region that experienced a drop in passengers from 2015.

Then there's Mobile Regional Airport, bringing up the rear with 288,209 enplanements in 2016, up from 278,053 in 2015. It's not hard to see why airport officials are taking a look at measures to increase air traffic. The more airlines, the more competition and the lower to prices.

This is not the first time Mobile has looked at ways to increase air traffic. For any of you folks who have been around a while, there was a time back in the late '90s when there was talk about creating a brand new airport in Baldwin County to serve both Mobile and Pensacola. But that plan never took off. Now there's this approach.

We’ll keep you posted on how this progresses.

In another airport story during the week, demolition of buildings to clear the way for a new terminal at Louisiana’s Lafayette Regional Airport could begin in a few months. The airport administration received an environmental assessment from the FAA and is advertising for someone to demolish several structures.

The work will include remediation of an old hangar, which contains asbestos and lead. The design of the new terminal is about 60 percent complete. It should be released to the airport commission and public in July. Lafayette is an hour west of Baton Rouge and two hours from New Orleans along Interstate 10. (Post)

By the way, Lafayette Regional Airport had 206,667 enplanements in 2016, down from 243,840 in 2015.


Airbus
Allegiant Air took delivery this week of its first U.S.-built A320 jetliner - the 69th aircraft built at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Mobile Aeroplex.

The plane is the 11th of 13 new A320s scheduled for purchase by Allegiant. The previous A320s were built by Airbus in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Allegiant is transitioning to a single fleet type aircraft by the end of the year. It currently has 99 Airbus aircraft either in service or committed for future delivery.

Allegiant, headquartered in Las Vegas, began service in 1999 and now has more than 80 aircraft serving 350 routes. (Post)

These deliveries are good news for Mobile, Allegiant and the flying public, and could go a long way towards getting the airlines past the bad publicity it received in a recent 60 Minutes segment. The story blasted Allegiant for its safety record, saying it had three times as many mechanical problems with flights as six competing airlines during a year of reports filed with the FAA. Most of the problems involved the MD-80, which is among the oldest aircraft operating today. Allegiant’s vice president of operations issued a statement after the program that said the story was outdated and shows a troubling misunderstanding of the FAA’s oversight of airlines. (Story)

The airline and some of the analysts who cover it say it is safe and on track to put many of its operational problems behind it, according to a story in USA Today. If the carrier was unsafe to fly the FAA would suspend the airlines operating certificate. Many of the carrier’s aircraft are older and require more maintenance, according to one contributing columnist.

In this region, Allegiant serves Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Gulfport-Biloxi, and Louis Armstrong.


F-35
The Navy's F-35C may not have the range it needs to strike enemy targets, the House Armed Services Committee said in a new report. It raises questions about whether the multibillion-dollar program is already outpaced by threats.

The committee's conclusion is in the 606-page report on the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill. The F-35C may not have enough range without refueling, and that's by aircraft that are not stealthy, opening both to enemy attack.

In another F-35 story, the Israeli version of the F-35 has now been used in combat for the first time. The Israel Defense Forces announced on its Twitter account that the Israeli version of the fighter, using its "Adir" moniker, was used in operational missions. The Israeli Air Force used the F-35 in two recent strikes in Syria. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $558.3 million contract that provides for sustainment support, including equipment, training devices, training facilities, non-aircraft spares, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software, and facilities standup in support of low-rate initial production Lot 11 F-35 Lightning II aircraft in support of the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy; non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants, and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. Work will be performed in Florida, California, Texas, New York, and the United Kingdom and is expected to be completed in February 2023. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $19.9 million for a modification to a delivery order previously issued against a basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for additional radar upgrades to Block 3F configuration Air Force and Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in June 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $13.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway IIs. Work will be performed in Tucson and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Week in review (5/13 to 5/19)

Remember the battle between Boeing and Airbus over the contract to build Air Force aerial tankers? As a refresher, Airbus in 2008 won the contract to build them in Mobile, Ala., but lost it in 2011 in the wake of a protest by Boeing. The tankers are now being built in Everett, Wash.

As anyone who has followed aviation will tell you, Mobile arguably got a better deal in the long-run when Airbus decided to leverage its relationship with Mobile and build A320 series jetliners in the city. The company began churning them out a couple of years ago, and is now producing four a month. Now it’s getting ready to increase that, and Mobile also will be the site where CSeries jetliners for Canada's Bombardier will be built.

And the Boeing KC-46 aerial tanker? Seven years since the contract award, no deliveries yet. Aviation Week reported during the week that Boeing says it's on the cusp of delivering a game-changing tanker capability. But the Air Force says Boeing has to resolve significant design flaws and is far from completing the required flight testing.

Boeing and the Air Force disagree on the delivery timing and what work remains. Boeing says it will deliver of first 18 KC-46 planes by the end of the year, but the Air Force expects them by May 2019, 21 months later than originally planned.

You can read the May 14 Aviation Week story here.

Speaking of Airbus and Boeing, the U.S. during the week won a trade case challenging subsidies that European Union nations had provided Airbus to develop A350 and A380 jetliners. The ruling affirmed a 2016 World Trade Organization ruling that the EU failed to eliminate unfair funding for the two Airbus models. The next stage of the 14-year battle will be over the size of the tariffs the U.S. will be allowed to impose to compensate for lost exports.

But this whole affair is far from over. Later this year, the WTO is expected to issue a final ruling in a separate case in which the EU challenged billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Boeing. The EU won the first round in that court battle. (Post)


Space
NASA's Space Launch System program may be facing a new delay.

NASA discovered a contamination problem with tubing in part of the core stage of the first Space Launch System vehicle. According to SpaceNews, a routine inspection of the core stage being built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans found contamination in the engine section that holds the SLS’s four RS-25 engines and associated systems.

The contaminant is paraffin wax, used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured. The prime contractor, Boeing, determined the unnamed vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes as required. The contamination was initially found in a single tube, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned.

NASA previously said it expects the core stage to be completed and shipped to Stennis Space Center, Miss., at the end of this year for a green run engine tests by mid-2019. (Post)

-- NASA has announced some leadership changes at Stennis Space Center. John Bailey will assume the role of associate director following the retirement of Ken Human, effective May 31.

Bailey, a native of Mobile, Ala., and resident of Picayune, Miss., previously served as Stennis Engineering and Test Directorate director. Human, a resident of Covington, La., has served almost 40 years with NASA and was named as Stennis associate director in 2010. Bailey will be succeeded as director of the Engineering and Test Directorate by Joe Schuyler, who has served as the department deputy since 2016. (Post)


Economic development
Another MRO is coming to the region.

Gov John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said Citadel Completions LLC will make a $17.6 million investment and hire more than 250 people for an aircraft center for interior jet modifications and maintenance at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, three west of New Orleans along Interstate 10.

The company estimates the new jobs will have an average annual salary of $80,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 347 indirect jobs. Hiring for the project is underway, with Citadel Completions expecting to begin operations by the third quarter of 2018. (Post)

One of the newest MRO in the region, VTMAE in Pensacola, will be opening this summer.

Military
The Air Force trying to determine how best to acquire more PGU-14 ammunition, currently made by Orbital ATK, for the A-10. Its existing bullet inventory, some 32 years old, is beginning to age out, said Bob DuPont of the 780th Test Squadron's guns and missiles department at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

It is unknown if the Air Force will stick with 30mm depleted-uranium bullets or if it will switch to a tungsten round. Depleted uranium is used for its ability to pierce armored vehicles, as it is 60 percent more dense than lead. Tungsten is comparable to uranium but a bit less dense, so manufacturers must balance out the weight to match today's PGU-14 rounds, which weigh roughly 14 ounces each.

The service is reaching out to the defense industry to see if adding a mix of alloy samples will allow tungsten to meet requirements. DU PGU-14 bullets are tested every two years on the base's northern range in a controlled fire exercise, required by the Pentagon for the ammo to be recertified for use in combat. (Post)

-- The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Rucker, Ala., was among five installations to win the 2018 Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence. Fort Rucker in South Alabama is the primary flight training base for Army aviators.

The awards recognize the outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain U.S. military installations. The five recipients were selected for their exemplary support of Department of Defense missions.

The other bases to be recognized are Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin, Calif. (Post)

-- Four AC-130U Spooky gunship crews with the 4th Special Operations Squadron were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for four separate engagements in Afghanistan spanning less than one year. Twenty-four airmen were awarded the honors during a May 11 ceremony. Three airmen were unable to attend. The DFC is awarded to any officer or enlisted personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves in combat aerial operations. (Post)

-- The Snowbirds flight demonstration team, Canada’s 431st Air Demonstration Squadron, made a rare appearance at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., during the week. The visit to the home of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team, included practice sessions opened to the public. The Blue Angels practice schedule was modified to accommodate both teams. The Snowbirds use CT-114 Tutors, a Canadian-built jet. (Post)


Education
The grand opening ceremony for the Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James Museum and Flight Academy in Pensacola, Fla., is scheduled for June 7 at 10 a.m. The city-owned site is the historic home of America's first African-American four-star general, Daniel "Chappie" James Jr., and was donated to the city by the family.

The residence, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1909 by James’ father, Daniel James Sr., and is located at 1608 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Community Redevelopment Agency restored the original 900 square-foot home to house a museum.

A new 1,500 sq. foot addition is now the home of the flight academy, which has been offering young people of Pensacola opportunities to train to be aviators for over two decades through their free one-week summer camps. The Flight Academy's classrooms, which are to be equipped with computers and flight simulator programs, will have its first summer camp at the new location June 11-16, 2018. (Post)


Contracts
L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $42.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for the organizational and depot level logistics services required to support and maintain the TH-57 fleet. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in November 2018. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp., Atlanta, has been awarded a $25.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for an increase in the indefinite delivery/indefinite-quantity ceiling. This modification provides for research, analysis, integration, systems engineering, development, flyable and non-flyable technology demonstrators, prototypes, test and evaluation, and rapid delivery of cutting-edge weapon solutions to the Department of Defense to counter emerging threats affecting national security. Work will be performed in Atlanta and is expected to be complete by December 2020. Air Force Research Laboratory, Munitions Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $45 million advance acquisition contract for long-lead materials components, material, parts, and associated efforts required to maintain the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system planned production schedule. Work will be done in California, West Virginia, Maryland, Utah, Texas, Ohio and various locations in the continental U.S. and locations outside the continental U.S., and is expected to be completed in January 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Northrop Grumman does fuselage work on the Triton in Moss Point, Miss. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $24 million for a modification to a previously awarded contract for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Verification Simulation F-35 In-A-Box (FIAB) Phase II for delivery of the FIAB software model, software license fees, and continued FIAB software model development, integration, and support. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and Marietta, Ga., and is expected to be completed in September 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … The Boeing Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $16.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the exercise of an option for BLU-127 warhead cases. This contract modification provides for the procurement of BLU-127 warhead cases, and brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $37,151,052. Work will be performed in St. Louis and is expected to be complete by July 31, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Week in review (5/6 to 5/12)

When it came to aerospace and aviation stories of interest to the Gulf Coast during the week, it was dominated by military-related items.

In Washington, the House Armed Services Committee approved plans for a $716 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2019 by a 60–1 vote. Among other things, it provides the largest military pay raise in nine years. It now it heads for a vote by the full House later this month and negotiations will the Senate later this year. (Story)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), a member of the committee, said in a newsletter to constituents that the measure is a big victory for Northwest Florida. It includes $10 million for refurbishing the North Field Air Traffic Control Tower at Naval Air Station Whiting Field; $60 million for F-35A spare parts at Eglin Air Force Base; $34.8 million for F-35A Integrated Training Center Academics Building at Eglin; $28 million for F-35A Student Dormitory II at Eglin; and $31.9 million for Eglin Test Range Modernization.

Meanwhile in Pensacola, six admirals shared their thoughts on the future of Navy aviation Friday on the last day of the National Naval Aviation Museum's 2018 Symposium. Participating in a panel discussion, they told hundreds of young Navy and Marine flight students that the aircraft they fly and technology they use will change, but the fundamentals remain the fight-to-win mentality. The Pensacola News Journal has a summary on the comments by each of the admirals. (Story)

Over at Eglin Air Force Base, one of the busiest F-35 training units is hoping the Air Force can relieve some of the pressures of training student pilots with ineffective resources. The 33rd Fighter Wing, leading training wing for F-35 student pilots, hopes to receive additional F-35A fighters, along with considerable upgrades to its existing fleet, to keep up with training demands, said Col. Paul Moga, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing.

Moga told Military.com the unit has found smarter ways inside the existing structure of the 33rd to get more quality sorties into the curriculum despite limitations. "We're the first Air Force wing to start doing what we call 'hot swaps,'" Moga said, referring to different student/instructor pairs swapping out for back-to-back flights in a single aircraft in order to save time and execute more sorties.

The 33rd has 25 F-35As and the Navy, which also has a presence on the base and sends pilots through the training pipeline here, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station. The wing is authorized to have 59 aircraft. The fifth-generation stealth plane arrived here in 2011 and made the 33rd Fighter Wing the first U.S. F-35 training unit. The first class of student pilots started training in 2013. The planes, part of the first low rate initial production batch, need additional work. (Post)


Contracts
Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $21.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification increases the quantity of Bell 407 variant commercial airframes through fiscal 2020 by seven in support of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned air system program of record. Work will be performed in Ozark, Ala., and is expected to be completed in December 2020. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Finishing work on Fire Scouts is done in Moss Point, Miss. … Bullock Tice Associates Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was among the companies that will compete for each order of a $49 million contract for architect and engineering services. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Week in review (4/22 to 4/28)

BP oil spill restitution money will help fuel a surge in workforce training in Northwest Florida, notably in aerospace and aviation.

Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization charged with overseeing the distribution of the money BP is paying in the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, approved $3 million in funding for Escambia County School District and Pensacola State College for workforce development.

The funding will allow both to expand its pipeline for training and certifying students for careers in fields like information technology, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and aerospace/aviation.

The money will allow the district to build a new aviation maintenance training hangar for adult students at George Stone Technical Center and to provide aviation maintenance education at Booker T. Washington High School and more.

The grant was one of the first four projects approved in what is expected to be $1.5 billion worth of job-creating initiatives funded over the next 12 years by an economic damages settlement between the state and BP.

The Triumph board in all approved nearly $19 million in grants, including $10 million to the Port of Panama City for a major expansion of port capacity, $1.5 million to improve infrastructure and attract businesses in Okaloosa County, and almost $4 million for workforce development in Wakulla County. (Post)


Contracts
It was a busy week for Defense Department contracts impacting the region, with several involved in aerial weapons and others related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

General Dynamics, Ordnance and Tactical Systems, Niceville, Fla., was awarded a $23.3 million initial production modification to a previously awarded contract for BLU-134/B improved lethality warhead. Work will be performed in Niceville and is expected to be complete by Oct. 26, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded an $11.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Joint Attack Direct Munition (JDAM) high compact telemetry modules. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be complete by October 2019. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded two contracts for aerial weapons. One was an $8.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb Increment II. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. The other was a $12 million contract modification to a previously awarded contract for Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) Production Lot 32 field spares and initial depot spares. Work will be performed in Tucson and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2021. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Dominance Contracting Office, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded two contracts for the F-35. One was a $38.5 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter advance acquisition contract. Work will be done in Texas, California, Florida, the United Kingdom, New Hampshire, Japan and Maryland and is expected to be completed in December 2019. The other was a $10.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification provides additional funding for flight test software sustainment in support of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. Work will be performed in Texas, the United Kingdom, Florida, California and South Carolina and is expected to be completed in April 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs. … DynCorp International, Fort Worth, Texas was awarded a $59.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for continued contractor operated and maintained base supply support. Work will be performed at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.; Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla.; Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas; Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.; and Army Flight Test Directorate, Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Work is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, 2018. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Training Aircraft Division, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Week in review (4/15 to 4/21)

There had been talk that SpaceX might put the manufacturing facility for its giant "BFR" Mars rocket along the Gulf Coast, specifically at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility. That seemed possible since the company is using nearby Stennis Space Center, Miss., to develop its next generation rocket engine.

But it's going to the Port of Los Angeles instead, some 20 miles from corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The water access was key to the decision. After the Big Falcon Rocket is built and ready for launch, it will travel by barge to Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The company during the week finalized the deal with the port to lease 19 acres, where it will build a 200,000-square-foot hangar for production of the BFR, a nearly 350-foot tall rocket and spaceship. Production of the rocket will begin in two or three years. The operation will employ up to 700 people.

This is a really big rocket. It will be powered by 31 main engines and its spaceship will be designed to carry 100 people. Yes, you read that right – 100. And it will be reuseable, which SpaceX has already proven to be practical.

In addition to California and Louisiana, SpaceX was considering Texas and Florida.

You can find stories about this in Florida Today, the Los Angeles Times and Digital Trends.

The engines that will power both stages of this rocket are the next-generation Raptor engine, which is being developed by SpaceX in part at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The company is using the E-2 test stand at SSC.

-- Speaking of space, NASA finally has a new administrator. The Senate confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the 13th NASA administrator. The partisan vote was 50 to 39.

Democrats opposed Bridenstine, President Trump's nominee, because he's not a "space professional." Bridenstine had previously said he's an advocate of the current Space Launch System program and NASA working with commercial space companies.

NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, is nearing retirement. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in the SLS/Orion program as well as commercial space activities. (Post)


Military
Hypersonic weapons got a lot of press coverage in March when Russia's Putin, ahead of the elections, bragged that his country had them. He said they have unlimited range and are invincible - they simply can't be stopped. That Russia is developing the weapons is no surprise to anyone who follows defense issue. The United States is also developing them.

During the week Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Space, Huntsville, Ala., was the successful bidder for a $928 million contract for a hypersonic conventional strike weapon. The contract provides for the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon.

Work will be performed in Huntsville, but the contracting activity is the Air Force Life Cycle Management at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The award was the result of a competitive acquisition and three offers were received. Fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be obligated at the time of award on the first task order. (Post)

-- Cmdr. Stephen Audelo this week turned over command of Helicopter Training Squadron Eight (HT-8) of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., to Cmdr. Jessica Parker during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Pensacola's Naval Aviation Museum.

HT-8 is the Navy's oldest currently active helicopter training squadron, responsible for flying more than 26,000 flight hours and graduating an estimated 168 Naval aviators every year. Cmdr. Lena Kaman became the new executive officer of HT-8. (Post)

-- The Defense Department is honoring nine winners with the 2018 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards for exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.

Among the winners is Frederick A. Javier, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., who provided outstanding leadership by training installation staff on environmental management and engaging with the local community to promote DoD’s mission and science education.

The department has honored individuals, teams and installations each year since 1962 for remarkable achievements in these environmental management strategies that successfully support mission readiness. (Post)


Airports
Frontier Airlines and Pensacola International Airport are holding an inaugural celebration to kick off Frontier’s nonstop service to and from Denver international Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The inaugural event will be April 24, at 3 p.m. at the company’s ticket counter. (Post)


Contracts
Vectrus Systems Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded a $15.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., operations support services. This modification provides for exercise of the second option, and brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $32,989,794. Work will be performed at Keesler and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2019. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler AFB, is the contracting activity. … L3 Communication, Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $30 million modification to a previously awarded contract for contractor logistics support of the Air Force C-12 fleet. Work will be performed at a variety of locations, including Madison. Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity. … Rockwell Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded a $15.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract to support the third production lot of the Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System for upgrading the test and evaluation instrumentation at Air Force, Navy and Army test ranges. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Armament Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.