Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week in review (4/17 to 4/23)

We had plenty of Gulf Coast-related aerospace news during the past week – Goodrich is hiring more workers in Foley, Ala., and China is now the owner of Teledyne Motors in Mobile, Ala. In fact, Lockheed Martin on its own made a lot of headlines, announcing a new Gulf Coast Technology Hub in Jackson, Miss., and announcing plans to expand operations at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

But here's a news item not directly related to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor that deserves your attention. It involves Boeing, unions, and the Chicago-based company's attempt to build 787s at a plant in South Carolina.

A lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board during the week accused Boeing of union busting by moving to produce its 787 at a nonunion plant in South Carolina. The claim is that Boeing is doing it to retaliate against Washington state aerospace workers for five strikes at Seattle-area plants between 1977 and 2008.

Boeing vows to fight the NLRB's attempt to force the company to make the aircraft in Everett, Wash., and not the half-million-square-foot North Charleston, S.C., plant. Boeing has until May 4 to file a response to the NLRB complaint. An administrative law judge will hear the case in Seattle on June 14. (Story)

For the most part companies won't say this, but one of the appealing characteristics of the Southeast is the weakness of unions and the willingness of workers to shun them in order to get a plant and the accompanying jobs. So the outcome of this Boeing/union fight will have implications for the entire region as aerospace companies look to expand in the South. You might want to keep an eye on this fight.

Business changes
Goodrich will hire about 20 people at its Foley, Ala., operation as it prepares to make more aircraft parts for Airbus and Boeing Co. The new employees would help make thrust reversers and exhaust systems that cover aircraft engines in a unit called a nacelle.

Goodrich, based in Charlotte, N.C., has 730 employees in Foley. Airbus and Boeing plan to ramp up production of the A320 and 737, respectively, in the coming year, meaning they will need more nacelles.

- Teledyne Technologies Inc. completed the divestiture of its piston engine businesses, Teledyne Continental Motors Inc. and Teledyne Mattituck Services Inc., in a stock sale to Technify Motor (USA) Inc. Technify is a subsidiary of China's AVIC International Holding Corp. The purchase price was $186 million, prior to customary working capital adjustments.

Headquartered in Mobile, Ala., Teledyne Continental Motors makes piston engines, as well as spare parts and components, used in small propeller-driven general aviation aircraft, and employs about 400 workers. Continental Motors also maintains service centers in Fairhope, Ala., and Mattituck, N.Y.

- Lockheed Martin said it plans to open a new Mission Support Center in the Greater Jackson, Miss. area in September 2011. It will create up to 350 jobs and provide diverse technology services for federal customers.

The center establishes Lockheed Martin's Gulf Coast Technology Hub and increases the corporation's presence in the state of Mississippi. The new facility will work with Lockheed Martin's East Coast and West Coast Technology Hubs in Rockville, Md. and Altadena, Calif. to offer enhanced technology capabilities such as cloud computing, business continuity and disaster recovery services.

Lockheed Martin has existing Mississippi operations in Biloxi, Stennis Space Center and Vicksburg, as well as operations in Northwest Florida. In fact, Lockheed Martin is preparing to expand its operations at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to prepare for the arrival of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The company said it needs more workers - 91 full-time for a number of technical positions.

Eglin is home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center, which will be used by all branches of the military as well as foreign buyers of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin held a series of job fairs during the week in Fort Walton Beach.

Joint Strike Fighter
The first F-35 full mission simulator system has been delivered by Lockheed Martin to Eglin Air Force Base's 33rd Fighter Wing in Florida. Preparation and assembly is underway at the base's F-35 Integrated Training Center for training to begin this fall.

The Joint Strike Fighter simulator includes a high-fidelity 360-degree visual display system and a reconfigurable cockpit that simulates all three aircraft variants for U.S. and international partner services. The system is the highest fidelity trainer in the F-35 pilot-training-device suite, replicating all F-35 sensors and weapons deployment.

In all F-35 simulators, actual aircraft software is used to give pilots the most realistic experience and allow software upgrades in step with the F-35 development. Small group training events with pilot and maintenance instructors are currently being held at the ITC using maintenance, desktop and mission trainers.

Vision Airlines plans to offer direct flights to five new locations from Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Valparaiso Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Vision has announced plans to add flights the week of June 1 to and from Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and Lafayette, La. In addition to the new destinations, Vision Airlines will expand its service to and from Atlanta from four trips a week to daily.

- The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a Certificate of Authorization to Mississippi State University for Stark Aerospace to fly the Heron Unmanned Aerial System from Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The COA allows limited unmanned flights in the national air space, in this case inside the traffic control area of Golden Triangle Regional Airport.

The Heron medium altitude long endurance UAS is produced by Stark Aerospace. The aircraft provides reconnaissance and can fly at 30,000 feet. It's in use in 27 countries. In South Mississippi, Trent Lott International Airport in Moss Point, Miss., and Stennis Space Center, Miss., also have COAs to fly unmanned aerial systems.

Unmanned systems
Speaking of unmanned aerial systems, Navy Fire Scouts have been shipped to the Central Command to support Army and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Navy said. The unmanned helicopter system, under development by the Naval Air Systems Command to operate from ships, will be land-based in CENTCOM for about a year.

Fixed-wing drones have performed missions in the region and elsewhere ranging from surveillance to air strikes. But Fire Scout is a helicopter able to stay aloft more than eight hours, fly up to about 17,000 feet and travel about 115 knots.

The system deployed to Central Command includes three MQ-8B aircraft, two ground control station and other hardware. Personnel from Northrop Grumman will operate the system. Fire Scouts are made in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Northrop Grumman likely welcomes the opportunity to show the Army what the Fire Scout can do. That branch originally planned to buy some, but cut the program.

NASA has selected 27 small business proposals that address critical research and technology needs for agency programs and projects for final contract negotiations. The proposals have a combined value of about $16.2 million.

The selected proposals were submitted by 27 high-tech firms in 18 states, partnering with 24 research institutions in 19 states. Negotiated individual awards, each with a value of up to $600,000, will be for
research projects for two years.

Three of the proposals involve technologies being developed for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss.

- Crew members of space shuttle Discovery's final mission, STS-133, visited NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center during the week to thank employees for their part in a safe mission. Discovery completed its final flight on March 9. During the mission, the crew delivered and installed the Permanent Multipurpose Module and the Express Logistics Carrier 4 to the space station, and also delivered critical spare components. Discovery is the first craft of the three-shuttle fleet to be retired. During its 27 years in service, it flew 39 missions and logged more than 148 million miles in space.

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $10 million task order under General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule contract for T/AV-8B aircraft maintenance and logistics support for Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. … L-3 Communications Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded two related contracts. One was a $51.8 million labor-hour contract to provide for the mechanical support, quality control inspection and other services to aircraft production at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, and the other was a $32.3 million labor-hour contract to provide for services including stock clerks, supply technicians, computer operators, clerks, site manager, production supervisor, to directly support aircraft production at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.

Tidbits from other sci-tech fields
Marine science: Bill Hawkins plans to retire at the end of June as director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss. Hawkins has served as director since March 2008 and was executive director for six years before that. … NASA is moving ahead with its work on the Nebula cloud-computing platform even after the departure of the technology's creator. John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss., recently used the cloud-computing infrastructure to process data for an environmental project aimed at boosting the health of the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico. … NOAA during the week reopened 1,041 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico to commercial and recreational fishing. It’s the twelfth and final reopening in federal waters that were closed after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010.