Saturday, September 24, 2016

Week in review (9/18 to 9/24)

The long, drawn-out legal battle with Airbus and the European Union on one side and Boeing and the United States on the other took a step towards being resolved with a ruling by the World Trade Organization this week.

WTO ruled Thursday that European governments failed to end billions in unfair state subsidies to Airbus, despite an earlier ruling to remove them. That opens the way for the United States to impose more than $5 billion in annual tariffs against goods and services from the European Union.

But the WTO in a future ruling is expected to find that the United States failed to address concerns about subsides that helped Boeing, in part through tax breaks. That could lead to the EU being able to impose similar tariffs on U.S. exporters.

The Boeing/Airbus court case is part of the larger battle between the two giants over market shares. The combined backlogs of commercial airplanes has risen to almost $1.4 trillion. Airbus builds the hot-selling single-aisle, twin-engine A320 series jetliners in Mobile, Ala., as well as Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China. (Post)

In another Airbus-related story closer to home, Spirit Airlines took delivery Monday of its first A321 made in the United States at Mobile's U.S. Manufacturing Facility. On hand for the occasion were executives from Airbus and Spirit Airlines, 140 Spirit Airlines employees, and the 350 Airbus employees.

The $600 million plant, at the Mobile Aeroplex had its ceremonial opening in September 2015 and delivered its first jetliner – to JetBlue – in April 2016. The Spirit aircraft is the 10th delivered so far. Airbus anticipates delivering four planes a month out of Mobile by the end of 2017. (Post)

Across the state line in Pensacola, Fla., the Pensacola City Council approved a final amendment to a lease agreement with VT MAE and approved a $6.3 million loan to enable construction of a maintenance and repair facility to begin.

The project at Pensacola International Airport was delayed after VT MAE requested the planned hangar be enlarged to accommodate larger 757 aircraft. The price went from $37.3 million to $46 million to handle larger aircraft.

The city secured additional money from the state to cover the increase, but won't get it until fiscal year 2018, thus the need for the loan. VT MAE, owned by Singapore Technologies Engineering, has a major facility in Mobile and is expanding into Pensacola. (Post)


Bases
Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field in Florida and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., are among the bases in the running to train battlefield airmen. We first told you about this in July, and now the military is doing assessments at each base.

The Air Force wants to consolidate eight locations into "three or four," according to Military.com. The current centers are scattered across seven states. The consolidation is designed to provide improved infrastructure with enhanced aquatic training for combat rescue and other missions. The service is conducting environmental assessment surveys at all eight locations being considered. (Post)


F-35
Lockheed Martin rolled out the first 42 F-35As ordered by the Japan Air Self Defense Forces to replace a nearly 80-strong fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. The event was attended by about 400 representatives from both countries.

Lockheed is building the first four Japanese jets in Fort Worth, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will produce the remaining 38 under license at its Nagoya facility. MHI won the 2011 competition to build the F-35A.

Maintenance training is already underway for the first Japanese Air Defense technicians at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the first Japanese pilots will begin training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., in November. (Post)

Meanwhile, Raytheon Co., Fullerton, Calif., was awarded a $254.6 million contract for the design, development, manufacture, integration, demonstration, and test of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System.

This contract will utilize and continue development of eight existing engineering development models; and deliver two additional EDMs to support fleet early operational capability requirements for F-35B/C and MQ-25 test and initial operational requirements aboard nuclear aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships.

In addition, this contract will deliver weapons replaceable assemblies, a technical data package, and provide developmental test and operational test support. Work will be performed in Fullerton; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Marlborough, Mass.; and Indianapolis, Ind., and is expected to be completed in September 2022. (Post)


Contracts
United Technologies Corp. - Pratt and Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $10.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for F119 engine sustainment. Work will be performed at multiple locations, including Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2016. … Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded $232 million for a modification to a previously awarded contract for the procurement of two CH-53K system demonstration test article aircraft. Work will be performed at a variety of locations, including Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Jackson, Miss. The work is expected to be completed in February 2020. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded $166.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance and logistics services in support of about 200 T-45 aircraft based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian, Miss.; NAS Kingsville, Texas; NAS Pensacola, Fla.; and NAS Patuxent River, Md. Work will be performed in Kingsville (48 percent); Meridian (44 percent); Pensacola (7 percent); and Patuxent River (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2017. The company also was awarded an estimated $43.5 million modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract for support of T-1, T-6, and T-38 undergraduate pilot training. … Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $22.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Air Operations Center (AOC) interim sustainment services. … Moca Systems Inc., of Niceville, Fla., is among the companies that will share in the award of a $10 million contract for architect and engineering, and cost engineering services to support the Mobile District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Week in review (9/4 to 9/10)

Over the next couple of weeks, Northwest Florida's Eglin Air Force Base will be the site of some crucial testing for the U.S. military. The sprawling base will host the 2016 edition of Black Dart, a formerly classified counter-drone program.

It gets under way Sunday and will continue until September 23, according to Breaking Defense. The purpose it to test technologies to detect, identify, track and defeat unmanned systems, a growing concern for the military and the public at large.

It's hard to overstate just how important this is. Everyone who pays attention understands the incredible capabilities of drones. We've used them to take out terrorists, but the flip side is that our enemies can use them as well. And what's particularly frightening is that the field of drones includes not only the large ones, like Predators and Global Hawks, but small ones the size of birds or bugs.

Black Dart is being conducted at Eglin this year because of the size of the base and the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, where testers will have access to ships. Two Aegis destroyers will participate in Black Dart, according to reports. The program is run by the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization.

Fifty-five systems were tested and there were more than 100 sorties during last year's Black Dart in California, the 14th iteration of the program, according to National Defense Magazine. It was classified until its 2014 demonstration, when it was opened to the media because organizers wanted the public to know the government is not only aware of the growing threat, but actively working to mitigate it. (Post)

-- Black Dart is not the only drone-related story of interest to the region. Eglin and Tyndall Air Force Base are among four sites being considered to host unmanned MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, a hunter-killer system. The other bases are Vandenberg in California and Shaw in South Carolina.

The Air Force is looking for a base to host a wing of 24 Reapers, built by General Atomics and capable of remote controlled or autonomous operations. The Air Force also is looking at five bases to host mission control operations.

The Air Combat Command is to conduct on-site surveys at the bases, and could selected preferred locations as early as the winter of 2016. Currently the Air Force flies about 60 drone missions per day, but that figure is expected to increase.

More than two years ago the 919th Special Operations Wing welcomed the 2nd Special Operations Squadron, its remotely piloted aircraft unit. The 2nd SOS was formerly located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The unit is at Hurlburt, but none of the aircraft are located here. The move to Hurlburt completed the process of placing AFSOC RPA operations on AFSOC bases. (Post)


Economic development
Eglin is looking for developers with ideas for a 50-acre property in Fort Walton Beach near the Okaloosa County Courthouse. An appraisal found it would be a good location for mixed-use development. Eglin is hosting an Industry Day at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Holiday Inn Resort on Okaloosa Island to provide information about the property with developers, realtors, builders, architects and others.

The project follows the successful development of the 152-room, beachfront Holiday Inn Resort by Gulf Breeze-based Innisfree Hotels on Eglin-owned property in 2014. Innisfree shares some of the revenue with the military. The Holiday Inn Resort was the base's first attempt to partner with private business for development of the unused land and was so successful, Innisfree is building a 175-room Hilton Garden Inn next door. (Post)


Airbus
The first Airbus A321 aircraft built for Spirit Airlines at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility flew for the first time last week. The jetliner took off from the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley and had a 3.5-hour test flight. The aircraft will go through a couple more weeks of final production before being delivered to Spirit Airlines. It’s the 10th Airbus jetliner built at the new Mobile assembly line. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $10 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option to procure additional diminishing manufacturing sources electronic components in support of the F-35. Work will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in December 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming center. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $49.2 million contract to exercise an option on a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb Increment II Lot 2 production. Contractor will provide SDB II weapons and containers. Work will be done in Tucson and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2018. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. .. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $8 million contract for field team support services for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile development test mission support including test planning, test operations, test reporting, and telemetry analysis. Contractor will provide ground tests, captive flight tests, and live fire tests conducted for developmental purposes up to and including operational test readiness reviews. It also includes management and maintenance of AMRAAM separation test vehicles and other assets used for the test programs. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Utah Test and Training Range, Utah, White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.; Edward Air Force Base, Calif., Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev.; and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 8, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $13 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for maintenance, repair, and logistics support for the Chief of Naval Air Training aircraft’s intermediate maintenance departments located at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. Support to be provided includes labor, equipment, tools, services, and direct and indirect material. Work will be performed at NAS Pensacola (60 percent); and NAS Corpus Christi (40 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Week in review (8/28 to 9/3)

The explosion this week of a Falcon 9 rocket and loss of the payload was a setback for a company that has been one of the stars of the nation's commercial space industry. The SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Thursday, destroying the rocket and a $200 million communications satellite.

It was the second explosion of a SpaceX rocket in just over a year. In June 2015 a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station blew up. The cause was blamed on the failure of a steel struck purchased from a supplier.

The accident Thursday was during the standard pre-launch static fire test around the upper stage oxygen tank. (Story)

Stories involving SpaceX are of high interest to the Gulf Coast region because it's involved in space activities thanks to Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. In addition, SpaceX is using Stennis Space Center to develop its next generation Raptor engines.

In another item of interest to this region, a U.S. court backed Leonardo's challenge to the U.S. Army's contract with Airbus Helicopters for 16 more UH-72A Lakota helicopters and has given the Army six months to justify that contract award, re-compete it or drop the acquisition.

The Lakota helicopters are made in Columbus, Miss.

Leonardo challenged the Army's modification late last year of the original 2006 Light Utility Helicopter program contract to permit the purchase of 16 more Lakotas on the grounds that Airbus was a responsible sole source.

Leonardo's AgustaWestland division lost out on the original contract award to Airbus. In 2006 the contract was valued at $43 million for initially eight helicopters, with options for as many as 483 more. The Army to date has received more than 350 UH-72 aircraft. (Story)

In other news of interest to the region during the week:

F-35
Three F-35Bs and 75 personnel from the Marine’s Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., along with 21 members of Edwards' JSF Operational Test Team, completed a 22-day deployment Sept. 1 at Eglin. They were here for complete five AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and one GBU-12 aerial laser-guided bomb test shots. Eglin is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming lab. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin of Fort Worth, Texas, and Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, Conn., each were awarded two contracts during the week. The contracting activity in all four cases is the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.

In one contract, Lockheed Martin was awarded an $18 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract. This modification provides for long lead time materials, parts, components and effort required to maintain the planned production schedule for one F-35A low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 11 aircraft, and two F-35A and one F-35B LRIP Lot 12 aircraft for a non-U.S. Department of Defense participant in the F-35 program. (Post)

The company also was awarded a $28.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional sustainment in support of Low Rate Initial Production Lot 10 F-35 aircraft. Support to be provided includes non-air vehicle spares, support equipment, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software upgrades, supply chain management, full mission simulators and non-recurring engineering services for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines was awarded $38.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for sustainment program administrative labor in support of the F-35 low-rate initial production Lot IX procurement. This modification provides for program administrative labor in support of F-135 sustainment efforts. (Post)

The company also was awarded a $7.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification procures advanced spare parts and deployment spare part packages and initial spare 3BSM modules in support of the F-35 for the Marine Corps and Navy. (Post)


Airbus
A JetBlue A320 made history during last week when it made the first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half-century. The Airbus jetliner, Flight 387, left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and landed in the central city of Santa Clara after a 51-minute trip. U.S.-Cuba travel was curtailed during the 55-year-old trade embargo.

The same day, the transportation department announced the carriers selected to operate routes to Havana: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. Carriers will serve the Cuban capital from Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando and Tampa. (Post)

Airbus makes A320 series jetliners in Mobile, Ala. JetBlue was the first customer to take delivery of an A321 in April 2016.


Contracts
DRS Training and Control Systems, LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $9.8 million contract to procure overhaul/upgrade of the AH-64 digital captive boresight harmonization kit for a minimum quantity of 25, maximum of 200. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 29, 2021. … Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $32.4 million modification to previously issued delivery order placed against a basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for software and hardware upgrades for 28 V-22 flight simulators for the U.S. Marine Corps (19 MV-22) and the U.S. Air Force (9 CV-22). Four percent of the work will be performed in Fort Walton Beach, and the rest at other locations, and is expected to be completed in March 2020. … L-3 Communications Corp. -Systems Field Support, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $19.6 million modification on a previously awarded contract for C-12 contractor logistics support. Work will be performed at a variety of locations worldwide and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2017. … SDVE, LLC, Andalusia, Ala., was awarded a $9.8 million contract for simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements. Contractor will provide simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements contract work including detailed task specifications that encompass most types of real property maintenance, repair, and minor construction work.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Week in review (8/14 to 8/20)

If you've been following aerospace activities in this region long enough, you certainly recall the battle between Boeing and what was then called EADS to win the contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

I remember writing about it in 2005, when EADS was first looking for a site in the United States where it could build tankers if it won the contract. That chosen site ended up being Mobile, Ala. The contract was at first awarded to EADS, but after a Boeing protest the competition began anew. Boeing won the second time around in 2011, primarily because it said it could build them  for considerably less than EADS.

But Mobile may have ended up the winner in the long-run. EADS, which changed its name to Airbus Group, decided to build a plant in Mobile anyway, to assemble the popular A320 series of jetliners. The first one was delivered to customer JetBlue in April, and the brand new planes have been rolling out of the plant ever since.

And the tanker? The road has not been easy for Boeing, which experienced delays and cost overruns. Boeing ended up being too optimistic with its cost estimate – something many thought at the time was likely the case – and will have to cover about $1 billion in unexpected expenses.

But on Aug 12 the Pentagon deemed the tanker is now ready for production. This past week the Air Force awarded Boeing a $2.8 billion contract for production of 19 refueling tankers in two batches. Under the contract, Boeing will deliver two low-rate initial production lots of seven and 12 KC-46A Pegasus tankers – modified 767 aircraft. The Air Force is seeking 179 of the tankers to replace about a third of its aging tanker fleet. The first plane will be delivered in about a year.

Finally, our military will get the tanker that is so sorely needed.

F-35
Carrier-variant F-35s during practice landings at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field near Pensacola, Fla., ended up being so precise and consistent with landings that their tailhooks hit the same spot on the runway every time. Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., that the landings on the same spot tore up the runway. The F-35C uses the Delta Flight Path, a built-in technology that controls glide slope and minimizes the number of variables pilots have to monitor as they complete arrested carrier landings. (Post)

-- Members of the 33rd Fighter Wing are participating in the two-week Northern Light exercise at Volk Field in Wisconsin. In Northern Light, Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy aircraft simulate deployment and missions in a contested environment. Col. Lance Pilch, 33rd FW commander, said the wing is continuing to be integral in building battle-ready F-35 pilots and maintainers capable of employing this weapons system against elevated threats. (Post)

-- United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $17.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional long lead items in support of the F-35 low-rate initial production Lot XI procurement. This modification provides for delivery of long-lead items for the LRIP Lot XI effort for the Navy/Marine Corps, Air Force, international partners, and foreign military sales customers. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Space
NASA engineers successfully conducted a development test of the RS-25 rocket engine Thursday. The RS-25 will help power the core stage of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the journey to Mars and beyond. The test of engine No. 0528 was for 420 seconds. The SLS rocket will be powered by four RS-25 engines, firing along with a pair of solid rocket boosters. NASA has conducted tests of the new booster at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah, while all RS-25 developmental 
and flight engine tests will be conducted on the A-1 Test Stand at SSC. (Post)

Airbus
The first U.S.-built A321 for Spirit Airlines has left the MAAS Aviation paint shop at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility and will soon enter the flight test phase. The aircraft is the 10th A321 to be produced in Mobile. Seven have been delivered. (Post)

Contract
Webb Electric Co. of Florida, Pensacola, Fla., was awarded an $11,499,889 firm-fixed-price contract for repair circuit six, selected portions. Bids were solicited via the Internet with seven received. Work will be performed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 31, 2018. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa, Okla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Week in review (8/7 to 8/13)

This past Tuesday we published our latest edition of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Aerospace Newsletter, and we hope you had a chance to take a look. The eight-page publication had four stories about aerospace activities in our region.

In our story “Farnborough: Cementing the bonds,” we talked to some of the folks who attended the July air show near London. There was one announcement of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the air show, but what doesn't get publicity are the relationships developed and nurtured at the air show. Those are investments of time and effort that might not have any payoff for many years to come. Story

In our article "DI: Putting innovation on the fast track," we tell you about the think tank in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., that's getting noticed. The Doolittle Institute opened its doors in 2014, but it’s on a growth curve. Last month the state said DI would get $100,000 from the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program. But that's just part of the story. DI has a growing operation in Tampa, and it has collaboration agreements with universities and research organizations, including the well-known Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla. Story

If you're interested in robotic aircraft, take a look at "Drones grow SSC science repertoire." The story is out of Stennis Space Center, Miss., best known as the location where huge rocket engines are tested. This tells you about the newest addition to its science portfolio. The recent decision by the FAA to expand SSC’s restricted airspace is expected to be a boon for the growth of UAV activities at the NASA center. Story

In another SSC-related story, "SSC key in quest for next gen engines," we tell you about how the NASA facility has become a battleground in the contest to replace Russian-built engines used for government launches. SpaceX and Aerojet Rocketdyne, two of the four companies competing to develop engines to replace the RD-180, both have chosen to use SSC to develop the crucial engines. Story

To want to download the entire 8-page PDF, click here. But be patient. Depending on the speed of your computer, it might take a while to download. But we think it's worth it.

In other news during the week, we posted an item about a booster test for NASA's Space Launch System in June that also demonstrated a new video recorder that captured unprecedented imagery of the rocket firing.

Developed by engineers at NASA’s SSC, the camera can record multiple slow motion exposures at once. Conventional cameras can only record in one exposure, a problem when trying to document very bright events like a rocket test. The new method is called the High Dynamic Range Stereo X, or HiDyRS-X. (Post)

There were also at least two contracts awarded that are of interest to the Gulf Coast region. Both were for the F-35. As you know, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and two F-35 reprogramming labs. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for both contracts.

United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded $151.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification procures initial spare modules, engine system trainers, support equipment and depot activation services and supplies in support of the F-35 for Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, international partners and foreign military sales customers. Work will be performed in Connecticut and Indiana and is expected to be complete in September 2019. (Post)

Also, Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $20.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the procurement, delivery, installation, configuration, and standup of the Naval Air Station Lemoore Training Infrastructure System and Pilot Fitting Facility in support of the F-35. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla.; Greenville, S.C.; and Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in March 2019. (Post)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Week in review (7/24 to 7/30)

Another test of the RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss., two more A320 orders that likely will involve the Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala.; a contract to upgrade Pensacola, Fla.-based Blue Angel jets to make the Super Hornets; and swarm of UAVs over the Gulf of Mexico were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:


Space
The RS-25 developmental test engine No. 0528 that had to be shut down early in a test July 14 was fired up again Friday and had a successful 650-second test at NASA's Stennis Space Center. The test was on the A-1 Test Stand.

The earlier July 14 test of the same engine, also at the A-1 stand, had to be aborted after 193 seconds when there was an issue with the stand. No damage was done to the engine.

Four of these Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, modified versions of the engines that were used in the Space Shuttle, will be used along with a pair of solid rocket boosters to lift the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System that will be used to send astronauts further into space than ever before. (Post)

NASA has a supply of RS-25 engines from the Space Shuttle program but has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build additional engines for SLS missions. All flight testing for SLS takes place at SSC, as will the core stage testing for the first integrated mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Exploration Mission-1. The next scheduled RS-25 developmental test at SSC is set for Aug. 18.


Airbus
Two new orders for Airbus A320 jets came in during the week, and some of that work will be done at the new Airbus plant at the Mobile Aeroplex.

JetBlue amended its purchase agreement with Airbus to include an additional 15 Airbus A321ceo passenger jets and 15 A321neo jetliners. The "neo" designation indicates it's a jet with the new, more fuel-efficient engine option.

JetBlue already operates A321s and has not yet announced its engine selection for the newly ordered aircraft, but engine work on the Mobile-built planes is done in Foley, across the river in Baldwin County. (Post)

In another announcement late in the week, Allegiant Travel Co., of Las Vegas, Nev., signed a purchase agreement for 12 Airbus A320 jets with the current engine option. The deal marks the first time the low-cost airline has purchased new aircraft from any manufacturer. Each will be powered by CFM56 engines from CFM International. (Post)

-- Earlier in the week, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said during the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s annual summer conference that the second largest growing industry sector in Alabama now is aerospace. He said the arrival of Airbus in Mobile will bring "great results for this region for months and years to come." The conference was in Orange Beach. (Post)


Blue Angels
The F/A 18 jets used by the Navy's Pensacola-based Blue Angels flight demonstration team will be upgraded and converted into Super Hornets.

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., on Monday was awarded $12 million contract to make modifications to the F/A 18 Hornet jets that will make them the more advanced Super Hornets.

Nearly 83 percent of the work will be done in St. Louis, and the rest in El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to be completed September 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)


Unmanned
The Navy, beginning Friday, planned to conduct two technology demonstrations of swarming unmanned vehicles over the next nine weeks. In the first demonstration a "flock" of 30 unmanned aerial vehicles will fly over the Gulf of Mexico.

The LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), first demonstrated in 2014, use a tube launcher that can propel the 30 UAVs within two minutes. An information-sharing data link between the UAVs enables autonomous collaboration.

The unmanned systems were to form up and four break off and perform an unspecified task. The next demonstration in September will feature swarming unmanned surface vehicles. (Post)


F-35
Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded n $11.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercises an option for the supplies and services to implement engineering changes to the Rolls Royce lift fan systems and engine ice protection system in support of the F-35 for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners.

Work will be done at Indianapolis, Ind. (97 percent); and Oklahoma City, Okla. (3 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2017. This modification combines purchases for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners. 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. (Post)


Airports/bases
The airport in New Orleans leads the Gulf Coast with the lowest average airfares of 10 commercial airports in the region. First quarter data from the Federal Aviation Administration's Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows Louis Armstrong International had an average fare of $324.90, the only airport in the region with a fare below the national average of $361.20.

The airports with average fare between $400 and $500 were Pensacola International Airport, $454.77, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, $463.41, Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, $472.22, Hattiesburg/Laurel Regional Airport, $479.25, and Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, $489.30.

Three other airports had averages between $500 and $600. They were Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, $512.26, Mobile Regional Airport, $554.86, and Tallahassee International Airport, $574.79. Dothan Regional Airport had an average fare of $721.69. (Post)

-- Harris Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded an $8.5 million contract modification for the Eglin Beam Steer Segment technology refresh, System Program Agency development and risk reduction efforts.

Contractor work includes establishing the BEAMSTR lab environment; conducting trade studies and analysis; prototyping solutions and reduce risk of implementation of the BEAMSTR replacement project.

Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base and is expected to be complete by Oct. 31, 2017. (Post)

-- Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the co-pilot who sat next to Jimmy Doolittle during the famous bombing run over Japan five months after Pearl Harbor, was scheduled to be on hand Saturday to dedicate the newly remodeled Doolittle Raiders exhibit at the Air Force Armament Museum.

The museum is just outside the gate at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. During World War II the Doolittle Raiders trained at the base. Eighty airmen took off from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942 and dropped bombs on the Japanese homeland, an attack that helped lift U.S. morale. (Post)


Contracts
L-3 Communications Corp. System Field Support, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $216.4 million contract modification for 12 months of continued contractor aircraft logistics support. Work will be done in Madison with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2017. … Vanquish Worldwide LLC, Maryville, Tenn., was awarded a $7.3 million contract modification for supply, maintenance and transportation for logistics support services, Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 31, 2017.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Week in review (7/10 to 7/16)

One firm announcement out of Farnborough during the airshow that has an impact on the Gulf Coast region was word that Aerojet Rocketdyne would assemble and test its AR1 liquid rocket engine at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center.

That decision will expand the company's operation at SSC from 130 to about 200 employees. Aerojet Rocketdyne's operation at SSC is called the Center of Excellence for Large Liquid Rocket Engine Assembly and Test.

AR1 is being developed to support the country’s mandate to eliminate U.S. reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine for national security space launches by 2019. Three other companies are also developing replacement engines.

Aerojet Rocketdyne's facility at SSC is already home for assembly and testing of the RS-68 engine that powers the Delta IV family of launch vehicles, and the RS-25 engine that will power NASA's Space Launch System. As a part of the buildup for RS-25 assembly and testing, Aerojet Rocketdyne is locating its RS-25 low pressure turbopump assembly to the company's facility at SSC. (Post)

Speaking of the RS-25, a minor issue with the test stand triggered an early shutdown in the latest test of an RS-25 engine at SSC. The test of developmental engine No. 0528 was Thursday on the A-1 test stand.

The test was supposed to be 650 seconds, but the engine shut down 193 seconds into the test. No issues were reported with the engine, and the next test is planned for August. The test was conducted by a team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators. (Post)

In another test at SSC Friday, Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed its latest three-minute acceptance test on a liquid-fueled RS-68A booster engine. This is Aerojet Rocketdyne's 119th hot-fire test on the production model of the RS-68 engine family. The RS-68A is the world's most powerful liquid-hydrogen/liquid-oxygen booster engine and provides 702,000 pounds of lift-off thrust, some 17 million horsepower. (Post)

In another SSC-related item during the week, several media outlets reported that the Federal Aviation Administration expanded the restricted air space over SSC. The expansion supports ongoing rocket engine testing at the facility and allows Stennis Space Center’s tenants to test unmanned aerial vehicles for research and development purposes.

The restricted air space was first defined over SSC in the 1960s to test Saturn V rockets. The expansion, which went into effect on May 26, covers five areas of about 100 square miles between Stennis International Airport and the Picayune, Miss., airport. (Post)


Airbus
The first Airbus jetliner built in the United States, JetBlue's A321 BluesMobile, will participate in this month's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016. The 64th annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention in Wisconsin is July 25-31 at the regional airport. The A321, built at the new Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., was delivered to JetBlue in April. Five Mobile-built Airbus jetliners have been delivered to customers so far. (Post)


Bases
The Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron announced the selection of a prior Blue Angels pilot to serve as the new Blue Angel No. 6 opposing solo pilot. Navy Cmdr. Frank Weisser will return to the team for the remainder of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Weisser previously served on the Blue Angels from 2008-2010. Weisser replaces Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, who died in a crash during a practice session in Tennessee June 2. (Post)

The Naval Aerospace Medicine Institute on July 11 launched a new Flight Medic course at Navy Medicine Operational Training Center for seven search and rescue hospital corpsmen. In the past this was done at the sailor's command. No formal course existed for standardized training until the Navy joined with the Air Force and Army in 2004 to provide a more structured education. The three services went their separate ways April 1, and the Navy moved its course from Fort Rucker, Ala., to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

The Air Force awarded Raytheon a potential $34.8 million contract to demonstrate an updated electronic warfare technology for the Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer. MALD-X is a collaborative effort of the Air Force, Navy, Special Capabilities Office at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Florida's Eglin Air Force Base's MALD Program Office. Raytheon designed MALD to duplicate friendly aircraft flight profiles and radar signatures to confuse adversaries. (Post)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Week in review (7/3 to 7/9)

Leaders from the Gulf Coast region will be participating in the Farnborough International Airshow near London this week. The every-other-year show brings out the big names in the aerospace industry. Leaders from this region are there to talk up the benefits of having an aerospace operation right here.

The trade show portion is July 11-15, when we often hear about major contracts. The public show is July 16-17.

The F-35B short-takeoff and landing variant of the fifth-generation fighter is scheduled to participate in the show. Six F-35 jets, including one owned by Britain, were on display already at the Royal International Air Tatoo that precedes the Farnborough event.

Farnborough and the other every-other-year air show in Paris are opportunities to meet a wide variety of company officials – thus the participation of economic development officials from the region. But don’t expect any announcements related to our region. These events are typically ways to build relationships that can bring rewards down the road.


F-35
Speaking of the F-35, there were several contracts awarded for the fifth-generation fighter during the week. We follow it because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center.

In one big contract, Pratt and Whitney Military Engines of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $1.5 billion modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract. This modification provides components, parts, and materials for the production of Low Rate Initial Production Lot 10 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Air Force (44); Navy (4); and (9) F-135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps.

In addition, this modification provides components, parts and materials for (36) F135 –PW-100 propulsion systems for the international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers; (4) F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the international partners; and (2) F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the global spares pool.

Most of the work, 89 percent, will be done in East Hartford. The rest will be done in Indianapolis, Ind., and Bristol, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

In another contract, Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $559.5 million contract for non-air vehicle spares, support equipment, autonomic logistics information system hardware and software upgrades, supply chain management, full mission simulators and non-recurring engineering services in support of low rate initial production lot 10 F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Non Department of Defense (DoD) Participants, and Foreign Military Sales customers.

Most of the work, 79 percent, will be done in Orlando, Fla. The rest of the work will be done in Redondo Beach, Calif., Fort Worth, Texas, and Samlesbury, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed July 2022. As with the F135 engine contract, the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, also is the contracting activity. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics also was awarded a $93.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for procurement of diminishing manufacturing sources electronic components. The modification will support aircraft production through Lot 14 for U.S. facilities, and Lot 15 for international facilities for the F-35.

Nearly all the work, 98 percent, will be done in Richardson, Texas, but two percent will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in June 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River is the contracting authority for this. (Post)


Bases
The Air Force announced eight installations as candidate locations where it will potentially consolidate its Battlefield Airman training – that is, the training of airmen who are part of the nation’s special ops forces.

The installations are Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Patrick AFB, all in Florida; Keesler AFB, Miss.; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; Little Rock AFB, Ark.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Last year, the Air Force reviewed its Battlefield Airman training, and the review determined grouping training at consolidated locations may lead to improvements and synergies in the current training processes. A decision will be made in early 2017. (Post)


Unmanned
The Air Force recently selected the first 10 enlisted Airmen to attend RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot training, marking the first time since World War II enlisted Airmen will be behind the stick. The first combined enlisted and officer training course will begin October 2016, with the first enlisted Airmen expected to graduate in 2017.

 The Global Hawk is the most stable remotely piloted aircraft community and presents an opportunity now to integrate enlisted airmen in RPAs to posture the force for future operating environments. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.; pilot training is a major military activity in the region. (Post)


Contracts
Sierra Nevada Corp., Mary Esther, Fla., was awarded a $23.2 million contract for forward operating location contractor logistic support. Contractor will perform 30-45 day excursions at forward operating locations in Afghanistan. Work will be performed at forward operating locations, Afghanistan, and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2017. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $28.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for hardware kits in support of the Phalanx Close-In-Weapon-System program. Work will be performed in Forest, Miss. (50 percent); Dallas, Texas (28 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (13 percent), and Andover, Mass. (9 percent), and is expected to be completed by February 2018.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Week in review (5/22 to 5/28)

While you're enjoying your long holiday weekend, please don't forget the reason. Monday is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who have given their all in service to the nation. Take time to give thanks for their sacrifices. They deserve nothing less than our respect and appreciation.

On a far less solemn note, as this month draws to a close, now is a good time as any to remind you that the June edition of the bimonthly Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter is coming up. The eight-page newsletter, designed to keep you posted on significant aerospace and aviation activities in this region, will be published June 7.

Meanwhile, work continues on our July 5 issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Business Quarterly magazine. It's a special tourism issue that will take you on some fascinating road trips in the Gulf Coast region. We'll take you on a history tour, a science tour and much much more. We feel pretty confident this issue will be a keeper.

Both the newsletter and the magazine are free for readers, thanks to our newsletter underwriters and our magazine advertisers. Both are available electronically and can be delivered directly to your inbox. To sign up for either, send me an email and tell me which one you want, one or both, and I’ll add you to the distribution list.

Now here's the week in review:

Airbus
The first A321 jetliner built in the United States is now earning money for JetBlue. The first revenue flight was No. 611 from JFK airport in New York to Las Vegas on May 14. Since then, it has been to Orlando, Tampa, Barbados, Fort Lauderdale, Puerto Rico and San Diego. The plane, nicknamed “BluesMobile,” was delivered to JetBlue April 25 in a ceremony at the Airbus campus at the Mobile Aeroplex. (Post)


Bases
A nine-year-old got behind the controls of an Air Force F-35 simulator earlier this month as part of a 26-year-old program to reach out to the community and for children to experience a day in the life of an Air Force pilot. Christian Loafman was diagnosed with progressive infantile scoliosis and autism, and he’s had multiple surgeries.

Two weeks ago he was chosen as the 33rd Fighter Wing’s first F-35A Pilot for a Day at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. His day was May 18, and the affair included getting a flight suit with his name and 58th Squadron patch. He also saw a static display of an F-35 with his name on it before getting at the controls of a simulator. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $20 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the low-rate initial production Lot 8 non-recurring special tooling/special test equipment. This equipment will be utilized in the manufacture of general material bulkheads in support of the F-35 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ohio, Texas, Montana, Canada and California, and is expected to be completed in December 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $302.2 million contract for logistics services in support of the C-12 utility lift aircraft, including post-production, full commercial-type aircraft maintenance, logistics support, and materials for Marine Corps Reserve C-12 (UC-12B/F/M/W) and Navy TC-12B trainer aircraft. New Orleans is one of the work sites. Others are in Texas, Maryland, Bahrain, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Japan, South Carolina, Arizona, North Carolina, Virginia and California and is expected to be completed in July 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Week in review (5/8 to 5/14)

If you're a regular reader of this column, no doubt you've noticed that I've had weeks where I didn’t post anything. An explanation is in order.

Early this year we launched a new business quarterly magazine, a startup that always takes a lot of time and attention. Then we started developing internship programs with area colleges for that magazine.

This weekly column ended up suffering. And it will continue to do so for a while.

But since this column was always intended to be a recap of the week's aerospace activities, you can always get that information by signing up for the daily Gulf Coast aerospace feed. It's not like getting the column, but you'll still be kept informed.

That said, here's your week in review:


Airbus
Airbus will deliver a new A321 jetliner to American Airlines Tuesday at the Airbus campus in the Mobile Aeroplex. It's the second A321 off the assembly line at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. The event, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. CDT, is not open to the public. American Airlines operates the world's largest fleet of Airbus aircraft and the world's largest A321 fleet. The Airbus plant delivered its first jetliner to JetBlue in March. (Post)


Acquisition
Tyonek Services Group Inc. has acquired Selex Galileo's Avionics System Integration facility in Stennis International Airport in Kiln, Miss. The company will be named Tyonek Services Overhaul Facility – Stennis LLC (TSOF-S) and is expected to create at least 26 new jobs over the next two years. The general aviation airport is 1,691 acres with an 8,500-foot grooved runway and more than 340,000 square feet of surfaced aprons and taxiways. (Post)


New positions
The former commanding officer at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Capt. Keith Hoskins, will join the Gulf Power team June 1. Hoskins, a former Blue Angels pilot, will serve as the major accounts and military affairs manager leading a team that serves the company’s largest customers. Hoskins is replacing Ellis Oswald who is retiring. Hoskins commanded NAS Pensacola for three years and served in the Navy for 27 years. During his Navy career, Hoskins also was commanding officer of Strike Force Squadron 15 and as national director of NROTC at Navy Service Training Command. (Post)

-- Speaking of new jobs, the Air Force chief of staff announced that Col. Sean M. Farrell, who has been selected to the grade of brigadier general, is being assigned from commander, 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla., to director, strategic plans, programs and requirements, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field. Also, Col. William G. Holt II, who has been selected to the grade of brigadier general, is being assigned from commander, 352d Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, RAF Mildenhall, England, to director of operations, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.
, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $10.6 million
modification to exercise an option on a delivery order that was previously issued against a basic ordering agreement. This option procures 61 retrofit kits to correct deficiencies that preclude aircraft mission readiness in support of the Marine F-35 Strike Fighter aircraft initial operating capabilities. One of the bases where the work will be performed is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. also was awarded a $31.1 million incentive modification to a previously awarded advance contract. This modification provides for long lead time materials, parts, components and effort required to maintain the planned production schedule for eight F-35A low-rate initial production Lot 12 F-35A air vehicles for The Netherlands. Work will be performed in Fort Worth; El Segundo, Calif.; Warton, United Kingdom; Orlando, Fla.; Nashua, N.H.; Baltimore, Md.; and Cameri, Italy, and is expected to be completed in March 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $104.6 million contract for the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) program. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by Feb. 28, 2017. This contract involves foreign military sales to Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Romania. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Week in review (4/17 to 4/23)

Airbus will deliver the first Airbus jetliner made in the United States to customer JetBlue at a first-of-its-kind event in Mobile, Ala., on Monday. The twin-engine, A321 single-aisle plane took its first flight March 21 and has flown several times since then.

Earlier this week in Mobile, the European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Airbus completed the EASA Export Certificate of Airworthiness in the offices of the Mobile Airport Authority for the A321, according to Roger Wehner, the MAA executive director.

The Gulf Coast Reporters' League aerospace newsletter will have a special issue about the event.

Meanwhile, the first Airbus A321 aircraft built for American Airlines at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility made its first flight April 19. The aircraft is going through a few more weeks in final production before being delivered to American Airlines. (Post)


Bases/federal
A Navy Tomahawk missile fired from a sub off the southern tip of Florida aborted before completing its mission and crashed in Hogtown Bayou in Choctawhatchee Bay Tuesday. There were no injuries or property damage. The unarmed missile’s flight path in the routine test mission was coordinated with the Federal Aviation Agency to avoid residential and commercial areas. The Navy is investigating the cause of flight termination near Eglin. (Post)

-- Brig. Gen. Kirk W. Smith, director, plans, requirements and programs, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla., has been assigned to director, force management and development, Headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- The Federal Aviation Administration adopted a proposed rule that removes restricted area R–4403 over Gainesville, Miss., and replaces it with an expanded area redesignated as R–4403A, B, C, E and F over NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. More restricted airspace is necessary to support NASA testing and Navy training requirements, including weapons firing. The restricted area expansion becomes effective on May 26, 2016. (Post)


Contracts
Rockwell Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded an $83 million contract for Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS) modification, integration and support. The location of performance is Cedar Rapids. The work is expected to be completed by April 18, 2021. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Week in review (4/3 to 4/9)

The next issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor bimonthly newsletter will publish Tuesday. In this issue, we’ll tell you a bit about the history of the rocket engine that was tested at Stennis Space Center last month. That engine will be used in NASA's Space Launch System, but you may be surprised to learn just how much of a veteran of space flight that engine is.

We also have a story be Cindy West about a new aviation training program at Pensacola’s George Stone Technical Center, and Duwayne Escobedo wrote about two companies, one from Fort Walton Beach, that joined together to win a big military contract.

And Martha Simmons, who covered last month’s first flight of a U.S.-built Airbus jetliner, reflects on her memory of the former Air Force base where the A320s are being built. She recalls how tough it was when her daddy and so many others lost their jobs when the base was shut down.

To sign up to receive the newsletter, drop me a line. The eight-page PDF will be sent to your email free of charge. If you prefer, you can download the newsletter yourself after Tuesday by visiting our website.


Airbus
The first A321 built in the United States will be delivered to customer JetBlue during a ceremony April 25 at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile. The highly anticipated event is not open to the public. Remarks during the event will be made by Airbus and JetBlue executives, among others. The twin-engine jetliner had its maiden flight March 21 and has flown multiple times since then. (Post)

Speaking of Airbus, the first flight of that plane was the focus of the April issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Business Quarterly. The magazine, with the cover story “Fulfilling the promise,” was published April 5 and is available at our website. (Post)

Meanwhile, the second U.S.-built A321 is now sporting the livery of American Airlines. It left the paint shop at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley in Mobile last week. It’s the first plane built for American Airlines at the Mobile plant. There are currently eight aircraft in production for American Airlines at the facility. (Post)


Bases
Maj. Gen. William Gayler during the week took over as commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala. He assumed command from Maj. Gen. Michael Lundy. It's the third time for Gayler at Fort Rucker. He was previously aide-de-camp to the commanding general of the Army Aviation Center, and deputy director of the Directorate of Evaluations and Standardization. (Post)

Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment as principal deputy director of cost assessment and program evaluation, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Heithold is currently serving as commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. (Post)


Contracts
CNS Aviation LLC, Pensacola, Fla., has been awarded a $7 million contract for avionics bench test sets. The work will support Special Mission Wing counternarcotic activities in Afghanistan with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Week in review (3/20 to 3/26)

The first Airbus jetliner produced in the United States had a successful maiden flight Monday. The A321, built for JetBlue at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., lifted from the runway at 9:36 a.m. CDT to the cheers of more than 300 employees.

The blue and white jetliner returned to the Mobile Aeroplex runway at 1:02 p.m. after a three-hour, 26-minute test flight, part of the process before turning over the plane to the customer. The single-aisle, twin-engine aircraft will go through a few more weeks of final delivery preparations. JetBlue is expected to take delivery before the end of next month. (Post)

In another Airbus-related event, Miller Transfer will open an office at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. Miller Transfer is responsible for the logistics of moving major sections of Airbus aircraft from the port to the Airbus Manufacturing Facility at the Aeroplex. Miller will occupy offices at the Mobile Airport Authority headquarters on the second floor in the shared services space. (Post)

If you want to read more about Airbus and its activities in Mobile, pick up a copy of the upcoming issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Business Quarterly. We had photographer Michelle Thomas at the Aeroplex to shoot some photos of the historic flight. We also had writer Martha Simmons at the event following the first flight, and she also was on hand to meet the crew a few days before the flight.

In addition to a story about the first flight in that April 5 edition of the magazine, we have a package of stories about the assembly process, the role of nearby Foley, the suppliers and the aerospace footprint in the Gulf Coast region.

To have the digital magazine delivered to you via email, visit the Gulf Coast Reporters' League website and click on the subscribe button on the left. The advertiser-supported magazine is free in its PDF version. And since this flight is so historic, you can also purchase at cost from our print-on-demand service a printed version of the magazine. It will be a keeper.


Bases/airports
Capt. Christopher T. Martin took over command of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., from Capt. Keith W. Hoskins during a ceremony Thursday at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Martin earned his wings at NAS Pensacola in 1995 and few E-2 Hawkeyes through most of his naval career. Hoskins, a former Blue Angels pilot, has been the commander since 2013. He retired from the Navy at the conclusion of the ceremony and said he’ll remain in the Pensacola area. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport during the week announced additional flights to Houston on United Airlines beginning in June. The new flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport will begin June 9. United will use a larger EMB 175 plane during weekends. The airport is located in West Bay, northwest of Panama City. (Post)


F-35
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $179.9 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for the advance procurement of long lead time materials, parts, components, and effort to maintain the planned production schedule for low-rate initial production Lot 11 F-35.

This contract combines purchase for the Air Force (65.6 percent); Navy (9.2 percent), and Marine Corps (25.2 percent). 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. (Post)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Week in review (3/13 to 3/19)

By any measure, what will happen Monday in Mobile, Ala., is historic for the aviation industry.

That's when the first Airbus jetliner produced in the United States is scheduled to fly for the first time as part of its testing program. The A321, built for JetBlue at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Mobile Aeroplex, is scheduled to take off at 9:15 a.m. CDT, barring any weather or other pre-flight factors that might delay the flight.

A test flight is a normal step in aircraft production and takes place prior to the delivery of the aircraft to the customer. Following the flight, the aircraft will go through a few more weeks of final delivery preparations. (Post)

We've been following Airbus from the time it was still known as EADS and was looking for a place in the United States to build aerial tankers for the U.S. Air Force. That was back in 2005. It lost that contest to Boeing, but it did like what it saw in Mobile and in 2012 announced it would build A320 series jetliners there.

Now here we are in 2016, and the first plane has been built and will take to the skies. It is exciting.

In another Airbus-related item during the week, the Mobile Airport Authority and Recaro Aircraft Seating Co. signed an agreement for Recaro to open an office at the Mobile Aeroplex, where Airbus has its manufacturing plant.

Recaro ranks among the world's top three aircraft seat manufacturers. The company operates plants in Germany, Poland, South Africa, the United States and China as well as service centers in Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and Australia. In Mobile, the Recaro operation will be in the Aerospace Incubator.

Recaro is based in Schwabisch, Germany, and has 1,900 workers worldwide. Recaro is one of more than a dozen suppliers that have opened operations at the Aeroplex since Airbus announced it would build an assembly line for A320 series jetliners in Mobile. (Post)

Meanwhile to the east in Florida, Mayor Ashton Hayward announced that the city of Pensacola has been successful in securing $1 million in funding for the Pensacola International Airport Commerce Park.

The park is owned and operated by the city of Pensacola and has more than 350 acres available for development. VT MAE, which has an MRO operation in Mobile, Ala., plans to open a satellite operation at the park that will employ about 300 workers. That operation is being put on land already owned by the airport, land that’s not a part of this purchase. (Post)


Contracts
Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $573 million modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract. The contractor will provide Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) production Lot 30 and other AMRAAM system items. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by Feb. 28, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Dominance Contracting Office, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Grand Prairie, Texas, was awarded a $14 million contract for research, analysis, engineering, development of specialized munitions. Work will be performed at Grand Prairie and is expected to be complete by March 16, 2021. The Air Force Research Laboratory, Munitions Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Week in review (3/6 to 3/12)

A key rocket engine test, the planned resumption of flights to an outlying base and additional contracts for the F-35 were among the items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

But before that, there was a somber rememberance this past week for the fallen. It was a year ago that a UH-60 Blackhawk on a training exercise crashed into Santa Rosa Sound near Navarre. Eleven who were on board were killed.

A ceremony honoring the seven Marines and four Army National Guardsmen was held Thursday evening at the Navarre Beach Marine Park. Several hundred people were in attendance including community leaders, military members, and family members of the fallen.

We salute them for their service and their sacrifice.

Now here's your week in review:


Space
If you're interested in space exploration, there was a significant test at Stennis Space Center, Miss., late in the week. An RS-25 that will used to power NASA's Space Launch System performed a 500-second flight certification test on the A-1 test stand.

NASA conducted a series of tests on an RS-25 development engine last year, but this Aerojet Rocketdyne engine, No. 2059, is one of the four that will power the SLS in Exploration Mission 2, a crewed mission that will carry astronauts into lunar orbit. That will be the first mission beyond low-Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The RS-25 that was tested Thursday is a modified versions of the engines used aboard the Space Shuttle. Together the four engines will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust. (Post)


F-35
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded two contracts during the week related to the F-35. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for both.

One was a $66.2 million contract action against a previously awarded basic ordering agreement for the design, development, fabrication, integration, delivery, installation, and testing of the technical solution to enable full interoperability of the Distributed Mission Training capability for the F-35. Work will be done in Orlando, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in March 2018. (Post)

The other was a $9.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the Windows 7 upgrade of the F-35 test product stations. Work will be done in Nashua, N.H.; Cheltenham, United Kingdom; San Diego, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas; Haifa, Israel; Baltimore, Md.; Orlando, Fla.; Rockford, Ill.; Owego, N.Y.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Alpharetta, Ga., and is expected to be completed in March 2017. This contract combines purchases for the Air Force; Marine Corps; and Navy. (Post)

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center.


Bases
Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., will resume scheduled flight training at Navy Outlying Landing Field Summerdale, Ala., beginning March 14. The base hasn't used NOLF Summerdale regularly since 2005 because of work to extend the runway to handle the T-6B Texan II trainer. NOLF Summerdale is one of five outlying fields Whiting uses for T-6B fixed-wing aviator training. (Post)

-- Aircraft countermeasures were put to the test recently when aircrews from two West Coast bases came to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to participate in the Air Mobile Command flare effectiveness test.

They were the the 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and a C-5 crew from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.

Typically, cargo-carrying aircraft like the C-130, C-5 and C-17 carry flares as countermeasures. The month-long tests began late last month. (Post)


Contract
Rolls-Royce Corp., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded $47.5 million for modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option to provide an estimated 37,015 flight hours of intermediate, depot-level maintenance, and related logistics support for about 223 in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss.; NAS Kingsville, Texas; NAS Pensacola, Fla.; and NAS Patuxent River, Md., and is expected to be completed in September 2016. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Week in review (2/28 to 3/5)

The paint job on an A321 built in Mobile, the first bomb dropped by an F-35 combat wing and another huge chunk of defense dollars helping to develop rocket engines were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your aerospace week in review.


Airbus
The first U.S.-built A321 now has a new paint job. It's painted in the livery of JetBlue, the first customer for an Airbus jetliner built in this country. It will be delivered in the spring.

MAAS Aviation set up a paint shop at the Airbus campus at the Mobile Aeroplex, and will be responsible for painting all the aircraft being built at the final assembly line. (Post)

In another Airbus-related item during the week, the company said it may shift more of its narrrow-body jetliner production toward the largest member of the A320 series, the A321. That's according to sales chief John Leahy.

The 185-seat A321neo – neo stands for new engine option - has been winning more orders than the 178-seat Boeing MAX 9, according to Airbus. The A321 and A321neo – a more fuel-efficient engine type – make up 34 percent of Airbus' narrow-body order backlog, but production plans already call for 50 percent of the total to be in that size.

Leahy said that proportion could increase even further. All the first planes being built in Mobile are A321 models. (Post)


Space
Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., was awarded a $115.3 million "other transaction agreement" for the development of the AR1 rocket propulsion system prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

This agreement requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of the Russian supplied RD-180 for national security space launches. This type of contract takes advantage of ongoing investment by industry, and provides DoD funds to help in the development. In this case, it's for a prototype of the AR1 engine, a booster stage engine intended for use on United Launch Alliance's Vulcan launch vehicle.

Some of the work will be done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Other locations of performance are Canoga Park, Sacramento and Los Angeles Air Force Base, all in California; Centennial, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.: and West Palm Beach, Fla. The work is expected to be completed no later than Dec. 31, 2019. (Post)

In January DoD provided a $33.6 million contract to California's SpaceX to help it develop the Raptor methane rocket engine. Much of that work is being done at Stennis Space Center. (Post)

Although the work will help the military for national security launches, the funding will also help these companies develop engines for commercial space launches.


F-35
You would think from some of the headlines that F-35s have never dropped bombs.

They have, as far back as 2013. But what's been happening in more recent weeks has been the first combat units – those that could be deployed – and training units have been using the bombs for the first time.

Two combat wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, recently dropped laser-guided GB sU-12 Paveways from F-35A fighters at a test range. It's the same type bomb dropped for the first time from an F-35 in October 2013. (Post) Training and development units from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in recent days also have dropped bombs from their F-35s.

The F-35 has used a variety of weapons in testing. The fifth-generation fighter conducted the first aerial release of an AIM 120, GBU-31 and BLU-109 back in October 2012. So watch out for the headlines that say something with the F-35 is a first.

-- In another F-35 item during the week, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $769.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for recurring logistics sustainment services support for delivered F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-Department of Defense participants, and foreign military sales customers.

Support to be provided includes ground maintenance activities; action request resolution; depot activation activities; Automatic Logistics Information System operations and maintenance; reliability, maintainability and health management implementation support; supply chain management; and activities to provide and support pilot and maintainer initial training.

Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, Texas; El Segundo, Calif.; Warton, United Kingdom; Orlando, Fla.; and Greenville, S.C. Work is expected to be completed in December 2016.. 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. (Post)


Unmanned
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $7.3 million task order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement in support of the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft systems.

This test support effort for the MQ-8C includes software verification; software regression; cybersecurity; dynamic interface; and other requirements in preparation for, but not including, initial operational test and evaluation.

The MQ-8B scope includes providing aircraft maintenance support for two government-owned MQ-8B test aircraft. Work will be performed in Point Mugu, Calif., and is expected to be completed in October 2016. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)


Contract
Lockheed Martin, Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $116.8 million modification to exercise the option on previously awarded contract for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) program. The contractor will provide JASSM production, system upgrades, integration, sustainment, management and logistical support. Work will be performed at Troy, Ala., and is expected to be complete by June 29, 2019. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Week in review (2/21 to 2/27)

A major milestone has been reached by the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. The first A320 series jetliner built in the United States, this one an A321, recently went from the production line to the MAAS Aviation paint facility.

The twin-engine, single-aisle passenger jet, which eventually will be delivered to JetBlue, is the first produced at the $600 million Airbus plant at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. A half-dozen additional A320 series jetliners are also at various stages of assembly in Hangar 9. (Post)

Right now, the Mobile plant is building A320s with the current engine option, or "ceo." But in the future the plant will also build jetliners with the new engine option, or "neo." The new engines, which are more fuel efficient, are offered by Pratt and Whitney and CFM International.

According to Reuters, a Pratt and Whitney neo engine had problem during testing of the A320neo two weeks ago. The problem occurred when an oil pump failed after an engine was deliberately shut down in flight and left to turn with the natural airflow. Known as "windmilling," it’s designed to ensure an aircraft can fly on only one engine.

But a bearing seized within the main oil pump, according to an industry executive quoted by Reuters. Pratt and Whitney is investing, and early signs point to a manufacturing fault in a broken part made by Crane Aerospace, according to Reuters.

The aircraft involved is one of two A320neo models being used by Airbus for testing, which is designed to find these kinds of problems before new technologies move forward. Pratt & Whitney is a unit of United Technologies. (Story)


Bases
Maj. Gen. Mark Anthony Brown, commander, 2nd Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is being assigned to vice commander, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, according to the Air Force chief of staff. (Post)


Contracts
Leidos Inc., of Arlington, Va., was awarded a $13 million contract for high speed weapons research and development. The contractor will provide support of technology research and development, modeling and simulation, and testing to address issues related to high-speed weapons. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2021. Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Pride Industries, of Roseville, Calif., was awarded a $14.8 million contract modification to exercise the option for follow-on year base operations for the Ft. Rucker, Ala., Department of Public Works, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Ft. Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Week in review (2/14 to 2/20)

There were a couple of items of interest in the field of contracts during the week.

The Air Force will transition for about three years some active-duty maintenance units to contract maintenance beginning in fiscal year 2017. It's for non-deployable flying units and back shop maintenance, and it will allow the Air Force to cross train about 1,100 experienced maintainers from F-16, A-10 and C-130 aircraft to the F-35 program.

The Air Force says it has a shortfall of 4,000 maintainers as a result of budgetary constraints. In the Gulf Coast region avionics units at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base and Tyndall Air Force Base are among the bases affected.

Other bases are Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Little Rock AFB, Ark., Nellis AFB, Nev., Eielson AFB, Alaska, Anderson AFB, Guam; Holloman AFB and Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; and Rota Air Base, Spain. (Post)

While we're on the subject of contract workers, the consolidation of operational contracts at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., has resulted in the loss of 129 jobs at Stennis Space Center.

Stennis Space Center director Richard Gilbrech provided that number during a talk late in the week, updating folks on the status of NASA programs. Syncom Space Services took over the contracts from Jacobs Technology and eliminated some duplication, resulting in the loss of jobs.

Stennis has about 5,000 workers and Michoud 1,220. (Post)


Bases
Changes at the top are occurring at two bases in our region.

At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Brig. Gen. David W. Hicks, vice commander of the First Air Force North, is being assigned to commander of NATO's Air Training Command-Afghanistan. At Tyndall he’ll be replaced by Brig. Gen. Daniel J. Orcutt, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Southwest Asia. (Post)

At Fort Rucker, Ala., Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, Germany, has been assigned to commanding general of the Aviation Center of Excellence. (Post)


Memorial march
One final note in this week's column.

Members of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command plan an 11-day memorial march across four states to commemorate last year's crash of a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Northwest Florida that killed four Louisiana National Guardsmen and seven Marines. The helicopter was flying in heavy fog when it crashed in the water near Navarre, not far from Eglin Air Force Base.

The Marine Raider Memorial March is set to begin with a memorial service March 10, then the next day more than two dozen Marines and veterans will begin a 770-mile march, starting at the crash site itself.

Each marcher will carry a 45-pound rucksack that includes a commemorative plate with all 11 service members names etched on it, and take turns carrying a paddle from the helicopter that washed ashore. The paddle will be turned over to Marine Corps leaders at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the end point of the march. (Story)