Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week in review (1/16 to 1/22)

Creation of a hub at a Northwest Florida airport, an Airbus tanker boom problem, good news and bad for F-35 fighter and the launch of a year-long celebration of naval aviation highlighted aerospace stories for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

The choices for passengers are about to expand in the Gulf Coast region. Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., got a tremendous boost during the week when Atlanta-based Vision Airlines announced new flights beginning March 25.

The airline is adding service to Asheville, N.C., Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Huntsville and Birmingham, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., and more. It will also begin service from Gulfport-Biloxi International to Atlanta, Houston and Tampa.

According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the decision to use Northwest Florida Regional Airport as a hub will generate a regional economic ripple expected to produce nearly 4,200 jobs and bring in $160 million in revenue. That's according to state Rep. Matt Gaetz, who bases that on figures generated by Northwest Florida State College. (Story)

The airport, which serves Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Crestview, Valparaiso and other cities in the Florida Panhandle, is one of a half-dozen commercial airports that serve the northern Gulf Coast region.

A large part of a refueling boom broke off from an Airbus tanker during an exercise last week off the coast of Portugal. Both the tanker, which is being delivered to the Australian air force, and a Portuguese F-16 were damaged in the accident. The cause is still being determined. The boom fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

What impact, if any, the incident will have on the competition to build tankers for the U.S. Air Force is unclear. The Pentagon is trying to decide between a Boeing-built 767 and an Airbus A330 for its new tankers. If Airbus is chosen, EADS North America plans to assemble them in Mobile, Ala.

In another tanker story during the week, Flightglobal reported that Boeing won't bid on India's aerial refueling tanker competition. Boeing will only bid on future international tanker opportunities if it wins the contract to build tankers for the U.S. Air Force. (Story)

China's military buildup is apparently causing Japan, South Korea and Singapore to engage in bilateral talks with government officials to discuss the F-35, according to the Wall Street Journal. The immediate cause may be recently published images showing China’s J-20 stealth aircraft.

Meanwhile, a report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation shows the F-35 has previously undisclosed problems with its handling, avionics, afterburner and helmet-mounted display, according to Defense News. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

About 500 people gathered at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Thursday to mark the birthday of the establishment of the Navy's first flight school. The ceremony featured speeches by Navy officers and politicians. Pensacola, which launched its school with 32 aviators 97 years ago, has events spread throughout the year to mark 100 years of naval aviation.

- Sen. John McCain will be at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., next Friday to attend a winging ceremony. His son, Ensign John S. McCain, is one of more than a dozen graduates who will receive wings of gold at the ceremony. The Arizona senator will speak at the event, which is not open to the public.

ST Aerospace Mobile was the subject of a Public Broadcasting Service investigative report that aired Tuesday on "Frontline." The report alleged, among other things, that workers falsified records and failed to follow FAA rules to track parts. Company officials called the report shallow, biased and sensationalized, and responded point by point to questions posed by the Mobile Press-Register. (Story)

Composite Engineering Inc., of Sacramento, Calif. was awarded a $34.7 million contract modification which will exercise the Lot 8 option to procure a quantity of 40 additional BQM-167As, also known as the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target. AAC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity.