Saturday, November 22, 2008

Week in review (11/16 to 11/22)

The week ended on a sour note for Mobile aerospace workers with the layoff of about 60 workers from Teledyne Continental Motors. The decision was based on a decline in the market for aircraft engines and parts. Teledyne Continental is located in the Brookley Industrial Complex.

There was a bit of news about the Air Force tanker project. That’s of high interest to the Mobile area, which hopes to build the tankers at Brookley. Pentagon acquisition chief John Young said he will advise the Obama administration to take a two-step approach to the competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS, based on the best-price offer after bidders had shown an ability to meet stripped-down set of requirements. The Northrop Grumman/EADS proposal came in considerably less costly than the Boeing proposal.

Things are moving forward at Mobile Regional Airport. EADS CASA, a Spanish subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. wants to expand its facility there. The company won abatements from the industrial development board. Plans call for a 27,000-square-foot hangar.

Also during the week, the Mobile Airport Authority board members voted to pay former executive director Bay Haas $10,000 a month as a consultant for 19 months. The board in September announced plans to retain Haas when it hired Bill Sisson as the new chief of the authority.

Further to the east in the Fort Walton Beach area, a lot of concern is being felt over the Air Force’s decision to postpone the record of decision for the Joint Strike Fighter training school at Eglin Air Force Base. The delay will give the Air Force time to run tests on the new F-35 and explore alternative locations on the base for its bed down. The city of Valparaiso has been concerned over the noise of the F-35 and is suing the Air Force for additional information.

But the Air Force is moving forward on the Army 7th Special Forces Group bedding down at Eglin. The group will be located west of Duke Field. The cantonment area includes operations and maintenance facilities, housing, dining facilities, and munitions storage and loading facilities. Some 5.1 million square feet of buildings and hard surfaces will be built between 2009 and 2011.

In the western portion of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, the INFINITY Science Center broke ground on the Interstate 10 facility. It expects to draw as many as 400,000 people a year. The center will highlight the work being done at the neighboring Stennis Space Center. It plans to open in the fall 2010 with exhibits, interactive galleries, theaters, a gift shop and cafeteria, though the backers still need to raise another $4 million. If this facility becomes anything like the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, it will be of major importance for the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor.

In the same area of the corridor, Gene Goldman last week was named the new director of John C. Stennis Space Center. A native of Mississippi, Goldman has been the center’s deputy director since October 2006. He replaced Bob Cabana, who left in October to become the director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Upstate a ways in Hattiesburg, the University of Southern Mississippi signed a lease agreement with Crosslink to provide research space in the university’s polymer science building. Crosslink has worked with Southern Miss polymer science researchers since 2004. Previous collaborations include a variety of research projects in polymer-related technologies, particularly for military applications. Crosslink and USM hold a joint patent for a corrosion-inhibiting polymer. They are also working together on a “smart” aerospace composite that can alert crew of damage and initiate repair on its own.

Two contracts of note related to this region. In one, American Security Programs, Inc., Dulles, Va., was awarded $29.7 million to exercise an option under a previously awarded security services contract. The work includes guard and non-guard services. In this region, work will be performed at CBC Gulfport, Miss., NSA Panama City, Fla., and NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Fla. In the second contract, Virtual Media Integration, Ltd., Pensacola, was awarded an $8.3 million contract for the procurement of 5 pre-production Computed Radiography System units and up to 100 production units. The system is a portable nondestructive testing technique used for processing radiographic film. These systems will be used to inspect for defects and perform alignment measurements. Work will be performed in Pensacola.

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