Saturday, February 5, 2011

Week in review (1/30 to 2/5)

By the end of the coming week, competitors Boeing and EADS North America will have to submit their best and final proposals to the Air Force in the long-delayed, heavily publicized contest to build 179 aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. The deadline is Friday.

Under normal circumstances, it would be appropriate to say that the contest is drawing to a close. But this has been anything but normal. Chances are good that the losing side will protest, and that means the replacement of the tankers will continue to drag on. I’ve said for a long time that the only way out of this mess is to buy planes from both companies. That would mean work for Boeing employees, creating of a new aircraft assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., and, most importantly, new equipment for our warfighters.

To recap this past week, the World Trade Organization ruled that U.S. federal and local governments provided billions of dollars in illegal subsidies to Boeing, giving the company an unfair advantage against Europe's Airbus. The findings are similar to those in an interim report released in September.

The WTO has now found that both Boeing and Airbus, a unit of EADS, received illegal aid. But now the two sides are bickering over the size of the illegal subsidies and the importance. Both sides have launched ad campaigns. Boeing's newspaper ad claim the subsidies to EADS dwarf subsidies to Boeing, while EADS's radio ad call Boeing's ads as "misleading."

While all this was going on, Boeing during the week marked the rollout of the 1,000th 767 at the company's Everett, Wash., factory. The 1,000th plane is a 767-300ER passenger model for All Nippon Airways, and was the final 767 to finish assembly on the current production line. The next 767 is being built in a new, smaller and more efficient bay. The 767 is Boeing’s offering in the tanker competition. EADS is offering an A330.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and executives from Orbital Science Corp. and Aerojet will be on hand Monday for a flight acceptance test of an Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The engine will be used in Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle.

Once flight acceptance testing on the engine is complete, it will be delivered to Orbital at the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for integration with the rocket's first stage core power. NASA has partnered with Orbital to provide eight cargo missions to the International Space Station, with the first scheduled for early 2012.

- Lockheed Martin has been conducting exoneration exercises for A2100-based satellites in various stages of manufacturing to ensure that foreign object debris (FOD) wasn’t introduced during manufacturing, according to Aviation Week. FOD in the oxidizer line is thought to have caused the failure of the liquid apogee engine on the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite. The propulsion system for AEHF-1 was built at Lockheed Martin’s facility at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., in 2006.

- Near Stennis Space Center, Miss., during the week, school children marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon by planting a "moon tree" near the front promenade of the Infinity Science Center. Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa brought seeds of various species on the lunar mission, and they were later planted and resulted in over 450 "moon trees."

The commander of Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., recently visited the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. During his tour, the general received a status report on the wing and it's integrated Academic Training Center that is the school house for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and future coalition partners.

Rice said the 33rd "represents the first time we've engaged deeply in joint fighter training and could be a template for future endeavors." It will train fighter pilots for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, and affords "a great opportunity for us to demonstrate this concept can work. It's too early to tell whether joint training facilities like the 33rd will be the way of the future."

- Northrop Grumman signed a long-term agreement with advanced materials company Quickstep Technologies, North Coogee, Australia, to produce composite subassemblies that include F-35 lower side skins, maintenance access panels and fuel tank covers. Northrop Grumman is a principal subcontractor on the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team. Australia is one of nine countries, including the United States, contributing to the funding and production of the F-35 aircraft.

Planned upgrades at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Fla., will help boost the economy, local officials and business representatives said. Improvements include widening the taxiways up to 75 feet to accommodate any size aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration provided $5.1 million, the Florida Department of Transportation put up $3.6 million and $3 million came from a state infrastructure bank loan. The weather Friday forced the groundbreaking into the BAE Aerospace Solutions hangar.

The Raytheon Co., Tuscon, Ariz., was awarded a $15 million contract for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile technical support for systems engineering, small software enhancements, test support, maintenance and modification of special test assets, support to the Navy hardware in the loop simulation, aircraft integration, and other technical engineering requirements. AAC/EBAK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: VT Halter Marine in Moss Point, Miss., during the week laid the keel of a multimillion-dollar Navy research vessel named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of modern oceanography.

Advanced materials: Chevron's Pascagoula, Miss., refinery announced during the week that it will begin construction of a $1.4 billion lubricants manufacturing facility at the refinery. The project will generate about 1,000 jobs over two years of construction and about 20 permanent positions.

Marine science: Menhaden landings in the Gulf of Mexico fell 17 percent in 2010 as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill curtailed the season. … Jerry Boatman of QinetiQ North America, former senior manager of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command at Stennis Space Center, Miss., has been installed as president of the Marine Technology Society.