Saturday, November 27, 2010

Week in review (11/21 to 11/27)

Chalk it up as the protest that never quite took off.

There was a lot of concern prior to Thanksgiving that lines in the nation's airports would be long on Wednesday because of travelers protesting full-body scanners. For days activists waged a campaign on the Internet to encourage airline passengers to refuse full-body scans and insist on the even more intrusive pat-down.

But people, not surprisingly, were apparently more interested in making it to their destination than a symbolic protest.

Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport found that about as many passengers going through that terminal say they appreciate the enhanced safety of full body scanners as they do from those who feel it's intrusive.

The airport in New Orleans also has full-body scanners.

Rapiscan Systems of California is one of two companies making the systems. It has a production center in Ocean Springs, Miss.

The Air Force's blunder of sending information to Boeing that was intended for EADS North America and vice versa in the hotly contested aerial tankers contest led to the firing of two officials during the week.

That's really not that surprising, considering the mistake was an embarrassment for the already troubled attempt to replace the aging fleet of Air Force tankers. Heads had to roll. But Gen. Norton Schwartz dismissed reports that the release included confidential pricing information.

Does the mistake improve chances that the $40 billion contract will be split? Will we eventually see Boeing building its version of the tanker in Washington state and EADS North America assembling its version in Mobile, Ala?

The Mobile Press-Register’s George Talbot considered that issue in his column Wednesday. He found at least two analysts who think a split buy may be the only way out. But he also found two others who disagree with that assessment.

- In another Airbus/EADS-related story during the week, this one of interest to Stennis Space Center, Miss., Goodrich Corp. delivered its first thrust reversers for the Airbus A350 XWB twinjet. The thrust reversers will be installed on a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine to be used in the engine ground test program, scheduled to begin later this year.

The thrust reversers were shipped from Chula Vista, Calif., to the Rolls-Royce facility in Derby, England, where it will undergo initial testing before being shipped to a Rolls-Royce ground testing site at John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss.

DRS Training and Combat Control Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a business unit of DRS Defense Solutions of Bethesda, Md., has delivered its 1,000th airborne pod for the P5 Combat Training System/Tactical Combat Training System.

The P5 CTS/TCTS allows the Navy, Marines, and Air Force and allies to train together using a common air combat training platform. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., awarded the prime contract in 2003 to Cubic Defense Applications of San Diego, Calif., with DRS TCS as a principal contractor. DRS has received orders of more than $210 million for P5 pods.

Unmanned systems
Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Va., rolled out the first of three planned Orion five-day-endurance unmanned aircraft demonstrators at its Columbus, Miss., plant Nov. 22. That's three months after being picked by the Air Force Research Laboratory for the first phase of the Medium-Altitude Global ISR and Communications (Magic) program.

Aurora is in talks with potential system integrators to help put Orion into production if a U.S. Air Force-funded technology demonstration proves successful. Orion is designed to fly for 120 hours at 20,000 feet with a 1,000-pound multi-sensor payload. This compares with 24 hours for the MQ-1B Predator and its 450-pound payload.

Along the Gulf Coast, two UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, are built in part at a Northrop Grumman plant in Moss Point, Miss.