It was an unusually slow week for Gulf Coast aerospace news, but then again, it usually is slower during the holiday season, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Here's a recap of the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast:
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne engines, the RS-68 and RL10, helped boost into orbit the third in a series of Wideband Global SATCOM satellites designed to improve military communications capabilities. The mission launched Dec. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV. The Rocketdyne engines provided the booster (RS-68) and upper stage (RL10) propulsion. RS-68 engines are assembled and tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss.
- Rolls-Royce engines were chosen by United Airlines to power its new fleet of Airbus A350 XWB aircraft. The contract for 25 Airbus A350 XWB plus long-term service support is worth $2 billion. The aircraft are due to be delivered between 2016 and 2019. In addition, the airline has also announced future purchase rights for a further 50 aircraft. There are some 1,000 orders on the books now from 33 customers for the Trent XWB engine, which enters service in 2013. This story has several Gulf Coast tie-ins: Rolls-Royce next year or the year after will begin testing XWB engines at Stennis Space Center, and ATK will produce composite structures and tooling for the A350 XWB in Iuka, Miss. ATK, by the way, also has an operation in Northwest Florida.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week confirmed that the base will host an air show in 2010. "75 Years of Eglin Pride" is the theme for the air show scheduled for April 10-11. A variety of aerial performers, including the Thunderbirds, will headline the show. Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, Air Armament Center commander, said air shows allow the public to better understand the military mission.
- While on the topic of air shows and the Thunderbirds, Keesler Air Force Base’s “Thunder on the Bay” air show held this past April was named the Air Force Thunderbirds Best Military Show Site 2009. Thunder on the Bay was held April 4 and 5 at the base in Biloxi, Miss., and drew an estimated crowd of 142,000. Keesler's next air show will be March 19-20, 2011, and will feature the Navy Blue Angels, based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system successfully completed its first flight last month. Designated AF-18, the Global Hawk flew about two hours from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The company performs Global Hawk subassembly work at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., and final assembly at its Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale.
- On the topic of aircraft, the Army earlier this month awarded the fifth year contract for the Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to EADS North America for $247.2 million. The contract funds fiscal year 2010 production of UH-72A Lakotas to be delivered through June 2011, and brings the total number of Light Utility Helicopters ordered by the U.S. Army to 178. The contract ensures continuity of UH-72A deliveries from the American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss.