Saturday, April 17, 2010

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

Perhaps you're wondering why the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor news feed hasn't had anything since late March on the Air Force tanker project. At that time, there was a brief saying the Pentagon would grant an extension of 60 days if EADS does, in fact, decides to bid.

We're tracking developments, of course, but nothing of significance has happened. EADS is talking to potential partners - and it still is interested in assembling the tankers in Mobile, Ala. But so far Europ's EADS hasn't found a U.S. partner. And that's crucial for EADS to bid.

Northrop Grumman's decision to pull out of the contest pretty much left EADS with few options. Northrop, you'll recall, felt the requirements tilted in favor of the smaller Boeing plane. And there's little if any reason to think the requirements will change.

I anticipate the next time you'll read something on our news feed about the tanker project is when EADS either finds a partner or announces a decision on whether it will or will not bid. So stay tuned.

Unmanned systems
The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter returned to Mayport, Fla., during the past week from its first operational deployment. The UAV was aboard USS McInerney during its recent six-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility. Among other things, the Fire Scout, built in part in Moss Point, Miss., was used in a drug bust.

Makes me think about the Iraqi soldiers who surrendered to a drone during the Gulf War.

Now about the drug bust: The Fire Scout was on a routine flight in the Eastern Pacific Ocean when it saw a suspected narcotics "go-fast" on radar. Over three hours, Fire Scout monitored the go-fast, feeding real-time video back to McInerney. Fire Scout saw it meeting with a fishing vessel, and that's when the McInerney's Coast Guard detachment seized about 60 kilos of cocaine.

- A couple of weeks ago a BQM-167 drone out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., was recovered by a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. The drone had been lost March 10 due to an engine flame-out during a routine training exercise. The drone, found in the Tampa area, belongs to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a tenant unit at Tyndall.

Joint Strike Fighter
The city of Valparaiso, Fla., has asked Okaloosa County to pay its legal fees related to recent litigation over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The county sued Valparaiso last April to halt the city's lawsuit against the Air Force over the possibility of the aircraft coming to Eglin Air Force Base. The county claimed Valparaiso officials violated the state’s Government in the Sunshine law when they voted to sue the Air Force. The lawsuit was settled last month. The legal fees come to $61,000.

- Despite recent problems with the F-35 cost and development schedule, establishment of a training pipeline for pilots and maintainers for the JSF remains on track. Navy Capt. Mike Saunders, deputy commander of the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin, told Navy Times the plan is to be ready with the first jet arrives. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to begin flying the F-35 within the next two years. The first simulators arrived in late March. The Marine Corps' training squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, stood up earlier this month. The Air Force created the 58th Fighter Squadron last year and the Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 101 will stand up next year.

Airports and bases
Four people aboard a Navy T-39N Sabreliner that crashed in a wooded area north of Atlanta Monday were identified as retired Lt. Cmdr. Charles McDaniel, 67, of Cantonment, Fla., Marine Capt. Jason Paynter, 38, of Pensacola, Fla., Marine 1st Lt. Shawn Nice, 26, of Levittown, Pa., and Navy Ensign Zachary Eckhart, 25, of Orefield, Pa. Assigned to Training Squadron 86 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, they were on a routine training mission. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

- Officials from the airports in Gulfport, Miss., and Panama signed a cooperation agreement to promote cargo trade in both countries. Bruce Frallic, director of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, said several initiatives already are being implemented. Rafael Flores, general manager of the Tocumen International Airport in Panama, said his country is a transfer point of goods and the Gulfport also can become a hub for this trade.

- The number of passengers going through the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport dropped a bit in February. The airport reported 618,201 passengers boarded and left flights in February, down from 620,814 in February 2009. For the first two months of the year, traffic is down 1.5 percent over the first two months of 2009.

- Brig. Gen. Ian R. Dickinson, commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., will be the new communications director and chief information officer for the Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Dickinson will replace Brig. Gen. David B. Warner, who retires July 1.

- The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlined the 75th Anniversary Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Show April 10-11. In addition to the air performances there were a wide range of static displays.

Rick Gilbrech is now deputy director of John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss. The appointment was effective immediately. Gilbrech had been director of SSC when he became associate administrator for the exploration systems mission directorate. He retired, then returned to NASA and was named associate director at SSC before his recent promotion.

- A signing ceremony for the contract to build a 72,000 square foot state-of-the-art science center near NASA's Stennis Space Center was held recently in Gulfport, Miss. Roy Anderson Corp. will start construction May 1. The center to be located along Interstate 10 near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line is expected to be a big tourist draw. Infinity is designed to highlight the activities at Stennis Space Center and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers in the fields of earth, ocean and space science.

Over the past couple of weeks there were a number of contracts awarded that are of interest to the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corricor. NASA's Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi awarded a contract to M&D Mechanical Contractors, Inc. of Decatur, Ala., to provide general construction services at the center. The contract value is not to exceed $25 million. … Northrop Grumman System Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $10 million contract which will provide for additional long-lead funding of two Global Hawk Block 30M systems and two Global Hawk Block 40 systems. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. … Star Aviation of Mobile, Ala., won a contract to help install wireless Internet systems on 105 planes owned by Alaska Airlines. The work is supposed to be completed by the end of the year. … McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $10.3 million contract which provided for the purchase of 89 carriage load crew trainers and 356 weapons load crew trainers to support F-16 Block 40/50, F-35, and F-22 integrations and training requirements. 681 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Gulf Power Co., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $5.6 million contract for the construction of Freedom Way substation and transmission line extension, Hurlburt Field, Fla. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity.

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