Saturday, January 9, 2010

Week in review (1/3 to 1/9)

First it was Boeing. Now Northrop Grumman.

I’m talking about the decision of Northrop Grumman to move its corporate offices and 300 jobs from Los Angeles to the Washington D.C. region by 2011. The aerospace giant is looking at the District, Maryland and Virginia, and will pick a location sometime this year.

The decision has to be painful for the West Coast’s aerospace industry. It was a decade ago that Boeing moved its world headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. Northrop says the reason for the move is that it has a lot of customers in the Washington, D.C., region, and this will help Northrop better serve those customers.

It will place Northrop corporate offices at the political center of the United States. Northrop’s partners in the aerial tanker competition already has corporate offices in the Washington D.C. region. Airbus Americas is headquartered in Herndon, Va., and EADS North America is headquartered in Arlington, Va.

For the Gulf Coast region, it could mean more face-to-face contact with Northrop executives. Los Angeles is almost 1,700 miles away, while Washington D.C. is about 1,000. And the movers and shakers from this region go to the nation’s capital more than they go to Los Angeles.

- Speaking of Airbus, the company during the week said it will add 80 jobs to its 210-worker engineering facility in Wichita, Kan., a project that Wichita officials had said they were competing against Mobile, Ala., to land. Airbus has a 150-worker engineering facility at the Brookley Field Industrial Complex. Airbus said the company's new engineering work is related to wings, already the primary focus in Wichita. Engineers in Mobile work on cabin interiors, cargo systems and escape systems.

- While Boeing and Airbus lock horns over the Air Force tanker, the two aerospace giants are keeping their eyes one some new competition that’s developing. The latest may well come from Canada.

Aviation Week reports that a Wall Street analyst, J.P. Morgan’s Joseph B. Nadol, believes Bombardier is planning a 150-seat version of its new CSeries jet. While the aircraft builder has only unveiled the 110-seat CS100 and 130-seat CS300, Nadol believes a 150-seat model would have real potential. It would move Bombardier into a segment of the passenger aircraft market that’s been dominated by the A320 and 737.

There are already two challengers on the horizon. China’s Comac is developing the 150-seat C919 and Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. is developing the MC-21. Can Brazil’s Embraer be far behind? (Story)

- In another big-company development during the week, Boeing consolidated some divisions and renamed its St. Louis-based defense unit Boeing Defense, Space & Security. It had been called Boeing Integrated Defense Systems since 2002, when the company consolidated its military aircraft and space business. (Story)

Joint Strike Fighter
During the week, Bloomberg reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a delay in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, cutting the Pentagon’s planned purchases by 10 aircraft in fiscal 2011 and a total of 122 through 2015. More than $2.8 billion that was budgeted earlier to buy the military’s next-generation fighter would instead be used to continue its development. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is scheduled to be home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center.

- Air Force officials published the notice of intent in the Federal Register to prepare an environmental impact statement to assess the impacts of establishing operational F-35 units at existing Air Force and Air National Guard installations. The candidate bases are Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Hill AFB, Utah; Burlington Air Guard Station, Vt.; Shaw AFB/McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C.; and Jacksonville AGS, Fla. Air Force officials expect to complete the environmental impact analysis process in about one year.

- The short takeoff/vertical landing version of the F-35 for the first time engaged its STOVL propulsion system in flight in tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The F-35 is powered by a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine driving a Rolls-Royce LiftFan. The F135 system development and demonstration program has completed 164 hours of flight time, including cross-country flights to and from Edwards and Eglin Air Force Bases and Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

- Pratt & Whitney has delivered its final conventional take off and landing/carrier variant F135 flight test engine to the F-35 Joint Program Office as the program transitions from development and demonstration to production. Pratt & Whitney has delivered 17 flight test engines and expects to deliver the final short take off and vertical landing flight test engine early this year.

In Mississippi, Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport topped its 2008 figures for departures and posted its third-highest count in the past eight years for incoming passengers. The airport finished 2009 with 12,365 boardings, a couple hundred departures more than 2008.

- In Florida, Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport is looking into how a college student from Korea ended up spending the night at the airport undetected. The Pensacola Christian College student was found asleep at a Delta airlines gate at 4:15 a.m. Sunday when an agent of the airline arrived to open the gate for business. The student told airport officials he spent the night sleeping in the concourse waiting for friends.

- At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Northrop Grumman and the Army recently completed electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility testing on the first RC-12X Guardrail. The RC-12X is the Army's airborne SIGINT sensor and ground processing system. The EMI/EMC testing validates operation of the aircraft's electronic systems in a large, electromagnetically shielded chamber. EMI/EMC testing is required before an airworthiness certificate can be issued. Delivery to the Army is scheduled for summer 2010.

This year will bring several milestones in the construction of the A-3 stand at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center. The stand will be used to test the J-2X engine, a key propulsion system for NASA’s Constellation Program. This year workers will install the stand’s test cell and diffuser, which let operators simulate altitudes of up to 100,000 feet using a series of chemical steam generators to create a vacuum. The test cell and diffuser is being manufactured by American Tank and Vessel Inc. at its facility in Lucedale, Miss. The stand is slated to be finished in late 2011.

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