Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year in review (12/29/12)

No doubt the headline-grabber for the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor in 2012 was the decision of Europe's Airbus to build a $600 million A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. It will forever change the face of the already considerable aerospace activity in this region.

But there were other significant aerospace stories for the region, including major steps in development of NASA's Space Launch System, progress in establishing the F-35 training center, an uptick in unmanned systems activities and corporate moves that over the long-run will have an impact on the region.

Here's the year in review:

Mobile, Ala., despite losing the tanker project in 2011, never gave up on getting an aircraft assembly plant. Talks with EADS and Airbus continued, and every now and then some intriguing story would pop up in the press, keeping hopes alive.

In June a story really caught everyone’s attention. There were multiple reports that Airbus would announce in the next few days that it would build an A320 assembly line in Mobile at Brookley Aeroplex (post). The formal announcement was made July 2 in an event that had all the markings of a celebration. The seven-building complex will take up 117 acres and produce four planes a month. The ceremonial groundbreaking will be in April 2013.

Airbus Americas chairman Allen McArtor said in November that the impact of Airbus would be even bigger than people are picturing. He pointed out that he wants to make the Mobile operation a showcase that will be a candidate for other Airbus projects (column).

The Airbus project has already prompted another project. France's Safran will build a $2 million engineering center, also at Brookley Aeroplex (post).

Space activity in the Gulf Coast region continued at both Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. At SSC, two types of engines that will be used for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) were regularly tested.

In January, the RS-25D engines that were at Kennedy Space Center in Florida began the move back to SSC for storage and eventually repurposing to power the main stage of the Space Launch System. A four-engine cluster will power the first stage of SLS.

SSC also had a heavy schedule of testing the J-2X engine that will be used in the upper stage of the SLS. In February engineers began a series of powerpack tests that wrapped up in December (post). In July the powerpack was fired for a record 1,350 seconds.

The SLS program wasn't the only propulsion-related activity during the year at SSC. In May there was a test of an RS-68A engine that will power a United Launch Alliance Delta IV (post), and in July SSC tested an AJ-26 that will power the Orbital Science Antares. Also in July SSC tested the engine used to power the Project Morpheus lander (post). In October, Blue Origin tested its BE-3 engine thrust chamber at SSC.

The future likely holds other interesting tests. Huntsville's Dynetics suggested in July that modified F-1 engines – the engines used to power the Saturn V -- could be used to power a heavy-lift NASA launch vehicle (post). Those were the engines tested at SSC in the past that made windows shake. In an unrelated story, F-1 engines were found in the Atlantic in March.

There was also non-space-related propulsion activity at SSC during the year. Rolls-Royce, which has been operating a test stand for aircraft engines at SSC, opted to spend $50 million for a second stand at SSC. Ground was broken in June (post).

In New Orleans, Michoud Assembly Facility was busy working on the Orion crew capsule that will sit atop the SLS. In June the finishing welds were put on the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 vehicle. The first space-bound capsule was delivered to Kennedy in July.

MAF is also scheduled to build the 200-foot-tall core stage of SLS. The design of that stage passed a technical review during the summer, and by the end of the year it was reported that construction on the SLS would begin soon at MAF.

Also at SSC, Lockheed Martin continued working on core structures for multiple Lockheed satellite programs, including the Advance Extremely High Frequency satellite and the Space Based Infrared System.

Another SSC activity from the past bore fruit during 2012. The satellite based ForWarn system, which tracks changes in forestlands, was released by USDA Forest Service in March. The effort was won an award in December for two federal agencies cooperating on a technology transfer program.

The year was packed with significant space stories, including the SpaceX Dragon capsule docking with the International Space Station in May; the FAA and NASA agreeing on standards for commercial space flights in June; and contracts for Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX for the Commercial Crew Development Program in August.

There were headlines about the F-35 throughout the year, but for the Gulf Coast one of the most significant was the approval given in December to begin training pilots on the F-35A conventional version of the plane beginning in January (post).

F-35s continued to arrive at Eglin throughout 2012. By May the number of F-35s stood at a dozen, and by July it stood at 16. It was also in July that the first international version, one owned by the United Kingdom, arrived at the base.

F-35As at Eglin were cleared to fly in March, though the first flight was cut short by a leak that was quickly corrected. An F-35B made its first flight at Eglin in May, and two F-35s had their first formation flight at the Eglin range in April. In September an F-35 from Eglin and an F-22 from Tyndall Air Force Base flew together in a sortie.

Also during the year, VFA-101 was re-established at Eglin for F-35 training in April and the first two UK students started training in November. Out in California, weapons testing with the F-35 continued. The first external weapons test was in February, and in October the first drop of a 2,000-pound bomb was conducted.

Also in 2012, the Air Force in April announced its preferred locations for operational F-35 bases, and in August announced that Luke Air Force Base in Arizona was its preferred location for an additional F-35 training center.

There was a lot of activity on the unmanned systems front in the Gulf Coast region during 2012. That's certainly not a surprise, considering the growing popularity of unmanned systems. In April the Pentagon said it will up UAV use 45 percent in 10 years (post).

In this region, the Northrop Grumman unmanned systems center in Moss Point, Miss., continued working on Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs. In April, a contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman to build eight of the larger versions of Fire Scout, based on a Bell 407 helicopter. Some of that work will be in Moss Point. In November the Moss Point center began work on the Navy's version of Global Hawk, named Triton.

The Navy continued to put the smaller version of the Fire Scout through the paces at sea. In June the USS Klakring left Mayport, Fla., with a record four Fire Scouts aboard. It returned later after setting a host of records.

There were also UAV crashes that got a lot of attention. The Navy in April temporarily suspended Fire Scout flights after two unrelated crashes. In June a Navy BAMS Global Hawk crashed in southern Maryland.

Work also progressed on development of the Northrop Grumman X-47B, the unmanned combat aircraft designed to be used on a Navy carrier. By December a test model was put through a few maneuvers on the deck of a carrier. Testing was also continuing to create an unmanned aerial tanker. In August, Northrop Grumman few Global Hawks in a formation that would be used for aerial refueling.

One of the more interesting news items about unmanned systems was the news during the summer that work is under way to create an indoor unmanned systems center in Shalimar, Fla. The 45,000 square-foot facility would be just outside Eglin Air Force Base (post).

In March, Camp Shelby, south of Hattiesburg, Miss., was chosen as the site for the $48 million Army Guard UAV regional flight center.

Early in the year Congress decided it wants to speed up allowing unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace. As part of that process, it wants to establish six UAV test sites. But the whole effort slowed down considerably. By November, the FAA indefinitely shelved the competition for six UAV test sites.

Although the Air Force has wanted to mothball its Block 30 Global Hawks – a desire not shared by Congress – interest in Global Hawks internationally continues. In February NATO said it plans to purchase five Global Hawks, and Canada in May was reported to be considering a variant of Global Hawk that would be called Polar Hawk. Late in the year South Korea expressed interest in buying three Global Hawks, but later reports indicated it is still considering other UAVs.

One of the biggest corporate stories was United Technologies purchase of Goodrich, and the resulting sale of some UT and Goodrich activities. Goodrich shareholders approved the merger in March. In July the UT takeover was completed, and Goodrich became part of the UTC Aerospace Systems.

In July UT's Rocketdyne, which has an operation at SSC in Mississippi, was sold to GenCorp, which doubled its size with the purchase. GenCorp also owns Aerojet, putting under one roof several rocket engines of significance to this region, including the AJ-26, J-2X, RD-25.

In October France's Safran bought the electrical power systems of Goodrich for $401 million. That's the company that in December said it would establish a $2 million engineering center at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex.

One merger that didn't work out was the proposal, first announced in September, of EADS and BAE Systems. But by October the entire effort was scuttled because of concerns of Germany. That led to a change in the ownership mix of EADS.

There were corporate celebrations as well. In May Boeing celebrates 50 years in Alabama, and in September Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space and Technology Center marked 10 years at Mississippi's SSC. In December Lockheed Martin marked 100 years since its birth in a California garage.

Other significant corporate stories during the year include ITT Exelis in October opening a mine defense production facility near the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, northwest of Panama City, Fla.; GE Aviation in October started taking applications for its engine parts plant in Hattiesburg; and L-3 Crestview Aerospace said the company will create 340 jobs within two years through the expansion of the Okaloosa County operation.

It was a period of transition for the area's bases. At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the Air Armament Center was deactivated in July as part of a consolidation effort (post). But Air Force officials continue to tell local supporters that the base's important research, development, test and evaluation mission will continue.

In February a High Pressure Particulate Physics Facility opened at Eglin (post).

At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in October, the 325th Wing marked its transition from the Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command. The base is also getting ready to welcome a combat squadron of F-22s.

There was still a lot of interest in the issues with the F-22. The Air Force identified the problems with the aircraft causing hypoxia-like problems with pilots, and steps were taken to mitigate the risks.

At Naval Air Station Whiting Field, the T-34 had its last training flight in April.

Other uses for military land also got some attention. Plans for a research park at Saufley Field in Pensacola were scuttled in September when it was determined that it would cost too much to move the Navy activities to nearby Naval Air Station Pensacola. Another land-use story that grabbed headlines was the decision in November to build a $25 million hotel on Air Force beachfront property in Okaloosa County.

Crashes claimed the lives of military personnel from the Gulf Coast region. In February, four Hurlburt Field airmen died in a U-28A crash in Djibouti, Africa, and the same month four Coast Guard crewmen die in an MH-65C crash in Mobile Bay.

There were at least two non-fatal crashes of military aircraft in the region during the year. In June a CV-22 tiltrotor crashed at the Eglin range during a formation flight. Nobody was seriously injured, and in August the Air Force ruled it was pilot error. In November an F-22 on routine mission crashed at Tyndall, but the pilot ejected and was OK.

Leadership changes
There were multiple leadership changes during the year. Patrick Scheuermann left his position as director of SSC to become director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He was replaced by Richard Gilbrech, who became the director at SSC for the second time. Scheuermann took over the spot formerly held by Gene Goldman, who retired in August to take a post with Aerojet.

Larry Sassano left the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, which he headed up for 15 years, to take over as interim director of Florida's Great Northwest. In Mobile, Win Hallett announces in November his retirement as head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bruce Frallic, the long-time head of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi, retired and was replaced by Clay Williams. In November, Melinda Crawford said she was leaving as head of the Pensacola Airport to take a similar job in Charlottesville, Va.

Learning centers
On the education front, there was a ribbon cutting in April for the $30 million Infinity Science Center near Stennis Space Center (post). In May, the National Flight Academy had its grand opening at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (post)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Week in review (12/16 to 12/22)

F-35 training to being next month; construction of the SLS will begin soon; Stennis Space Center has a new deputy director; the Air Force can use more state land in Florida for training; a county plans to sue Vision Airlines for unpaid fees; a county approves its part of an incentives package for an Airbus supplier; and L-3 talks expansion.

Here's your Gulf Coast aerospace week in review:

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is ready to start training pilots in the Air Force's variant of the Joint Strike Fighter beginning Jan. 7. The Air Force is tentatively planning initial operating capability by 2016 when the first operational base opens. An Air Education and Training Command Joint Operational Test Team conducted an operational utility evaluation this fall. The OUE lasted 46 days and focused on classroom and simulator training, along with six flights. (Post)

Construction is set to begin at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System. The work will being hundreds of jobs to Michoud in east New Orleans. The rocket is designed to bring astronauts on missions to deep space. In Huntsville, Ala., the core stage passed a preliminary design review at Marshall Space Flight Center Thursday. (Post)

In related testing, NASA completed the latest series of parachute tests for its Orion capsule at the Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Orion, built in New Orleans, is the capsule that will carry the astronauts into deep space. (Post)

Meanwhile, an executive with experience in the SLS program was selected as the deputy director of NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Jerry Cook served as the associate program manager of the SLS Program Office at MSFC in Huntsville. (Post)

In Florida, the Air Force will be allowed to conduct non-hazardous missions on additional state-owned land. The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to let the Air Force us pockets of land across the region. The agreement is part of an effort to ease competition for range space on Eglin Air Force Base’s 450,000-acre reservation. (Post)

-- The Operational Flight Program (OFP) Combined Test Force was recently recognized with the Ferguson Award for Engineering for developing F-15 aircraft modernization system, Suite 7E. OFP CTF is the first organization from Eglin to win the award since its inception in 2003. (Post)

In other OFP-related news, for the first time, developmental testing for an F-16 operational flight program will occur at the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin. The testing for Block 40 and 50 model F-16s is scheduled to begin in 2014. It will also be the first time developmental testing (DT) and operational testing (OT) of the OFP will be conducted at the same base. (Post)

-- Okaloosa County plans to sue Vision Airlines to recoup more than $146,000 in unpaid fees. The board authorized Airports Director Greg Donovan to work with county attorneys to take Vision to court if it doesn’t pay its debt by Dec. 31. Vision Airlines served Northwest Florida Regional Airport until last February. (Post)

The Mobile County Commission approved contributing $24,000 toward a $106,000 incentives package to bring Airbus supplier Labinal Engineering Inc. to Mobile. The incentives are from the city, county and state. Labinal, a subsidiary of Safran Engineering Services of France, plans to build a $2 million engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex. Brookley is also where Airbus plans to build an A320 assembly line. (Post)

-- Pegasus Airlines, second largest airline in Turkey, signed for up to 100 A320neo aircraft, with 75 of them firm orders. It’s the largest single commercial aircraft order ever placed by an airline in Turkey. AirAsia also recently ordered 100 A320s. (Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and L-3 Crestview Aerospace said during the week that the company will create 340 jobs within two years through the expansion of the Okaloosa County operation. The project is an investment of more than $13.7 million, including $7 million in facilities upgrades and the retrofit of hangar space at Bob Sikes Airport in 2013 and 2014. L-3 first announced the $7 million upgrade in November. (Post)

-- GE has agreed to purchase the aviation business of Avio S.p.A., an Italy-based manufacturer of aviation propulsion components and systems for civil and military aircraft, for $4.3 billion. The transaction is subject to regulatory and governmental approvals. GE Aviation is building an aircraft parts plant near Hattiesburg, Miss. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lockheed Company. Brothers Allan and Malcolm Lockheed founded the company out of a garage in California, where they built their Model G seaplane. Lockheed Martin has operations in the Gulf Coast region, including the Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator completed its first at-sea test phase aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B was put through myriad trials to assess the viability of an unmanned system's operation aboard a carrier. The X-47B isn’t built in this region, but Northrop Grumman does build portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout UAVs in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Boeing was awarded a $118 million contract to procure Lot 17 Guided Vehicle kits for the Joint Direct Attack Munition weapon system. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. ... Boeing also was awarded an $8.9 million contract for procurement of Laser Small Diameter Bombs retrofits, LSDB guided test vehicles, production, engineering, integration and test support and storage/shipping containers. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/PZJ, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. ... Northrop Grumman was awarded two contracts related to the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. One was a $19.2 million contract for logistics services, and the other a $33.3 million contract for the development, production, integration, and testing of nine radar systems. Work on both contracts will be done in San Diego, Calif., and Patuxent River, Md. Some of the work on Fire Scouts is done in Moss Point, Miss. … United Technologies was awarded an $85.3 million contract modification for the F119 Engine Sustainment. Among locations of performance is Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Zumwalt: Bath Iron Works in Maine erected the composite deckhouse for DDG 1000,  the U.S. Navy's next generation destroyer. The 900-ton deckhouse module, built in Gulfport, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding, was lifted to a height of about 100 feet using four cranes. (Post)

VT Halter: VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Miss., has partnered with Norwegian company Scana Volda AS for delivery of the propulsion systems and controls for two offshore supply vessels for Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. (Post)

Contracts: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $166.9 million contract to exercise the construction option for Joint High Speed Vessel 10. (Post)

Contract: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded an $8 million contract to exercise an option for Littoral Combat Ship core class services. (Post)

Contract: Textron Inc., New Orleans, La., was awarded a $23.3 million contract to exercise an option for long lead time materials, advanced planning, engineering, procurement services and technical manuals for the Ship to Shore Connector program. (Post)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Week in review (12/9 to 12/15)

The J-2X powerpack wraps up testing; an early warning system created by Stennis Space Center and other agencies wins an award; NASA is named the best place to work in the federal government; a city and county prepare to vote on incentives for an Airbus supplier; Airbus lands an order for 100 A320s; a governor visits Eglin to check the noise level of the F-35; and an unmanned combat aircraft taxis on a carrier deck.

Here's your week in review:

Engineers conducted the final test of the J-2X powerpack assembly at Stennis Space Center, Miss., at the end of the week. The powerpack, which sits on top of the engine and feeds propellants to the bell nozzle of the engine to produce thrust, has burned millions of pounds of propellants during 13 tests totaling more than an hour and a half in 2012.

NASA engineers will remove the assembly from the test stand to focus on tests of the fully integrated engine. Installation on a test stand at Stennis will begin in 2013. The J-2X, developed by Rocketdyne, will power the upper stage of the Space Launch System that will take astronauts into deep space missions. (Post)

-- The ForWarn forest monitoring and assessment tool developed by NASA Stennis Space Center's Applied Science and Technology Project Office and other federal and university partners was chosen to receive a technology transfer award.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer announced last month that the ForWarn early warning system will receive the 2013 FLC Interagency Partnership Award. It recognizes the collaborative efforts of laboratory employees from at least two different agencies on a technology transfer project.

The ForWarn system was released earlier this year as a satellite-based monitoring and assessment tool for tracking changes in forest vegetation across the country, and providing a strategic, national overview of potential forest disturbances and environmental threats. (Post)

For a background story, see Pages 7-8 of the April 2010 issue of Alliance Insight.

-- NASA is the best place to work in the federal government among large agencies. That's according to a survey by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization.

The ranking reflects NASA's highest results since this index was developed. The rankings are based on responses from nearly 700,000 federal workers. This is the seventh edition of the Best Places to Work rankings. NASA's Stennis Space Center was ranked second in the sub-agency component category. (Post) Previous year

The city of Mobile and the county will vote next week on the economic incentives used to lure the first Airbus supplier to Mobile. The city will vote on a $70,000 incentive and the county on a $24,000 incentive. The state also is providing $12,000 to Labinal Engineering, a subsidiary of Safran Engineering Services, a France-based aerospace and defense firm that will create 50 jobs at Brookley Aeroplex. Airbus plans to build an A320 assembly line. (Post)

-- Airbus said it has received an order for 100 Airbus A320 aircraft from AirAsia. Asia's largest budget airline is expanding its fleet to tap into the growth in air travel in the region. The price was not disclosed, but the list price would come to $9.37 billion. (Post)

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, several staff members and two Vermont mayors were at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week to see first-hand how loud the F-35 is compared to an F-16. The National Air Guard Base in Burlington, Vt., currently has F-16s, but the base is a contender for F-35s. Shumlin concluded the F-35 would be quieter than the F-16. (Post)

Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $127.7 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5 contract. This effort includes requirements for the international partner governments as well as for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

A Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator aircraft for the first time taxied aboard a carrier earlier this month. During the test aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, deck operators used an arm-mounted control display unit to remotely control the aircraft. More tests are scheduled before the Truman returns to its homeport in Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Northrop Grumman builds portions of two other UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III was nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment as director, Air National Guard, National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va. Clarke is currently serving as commander, First Air Force (Air Force North), and commander, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

BAE Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was selected by the Navy to  maintain and service T-34, T-44 and T-6 trainer aircraft under a contract valued at $400 million over five years. The work will be done at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. … Two Fort Walton Beach, Fla., companies, InDyne Inc. and Williams Electric Co., were among 10 companies awarded a $315,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract to provide for the services in support of various security and control systems. Work location will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 6, 2017. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $17 million contract modification for engineering, manufacturing and development phase option 1. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Austal: Craig Perciavalle was promoted to president of Austal USA, effective Dec. 17. Austal USA Interim President and Chief Financial Officer Brian Leathers was promoted to senior vice president and CFO, also effective Monday. (Post)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Week in review (12/2 to 12/8)

The comment from Win Hallett was particularly appropriate. Yes, good things come to those who wait, said the president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. But you better work like hell while you're waiting.

Hallett made the comment after the announcement last week that the French conglomerate Safran will establish a $2 million engineering center in Mobile. It's the first supplier to announce a move to the region after the July announcement that Airbus would build a $600 million A320 assembly line on 117 acres at Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

Safran Engineering Services' expertise is in wiring systems. It operates as an arm of Safran Group's Labinal, which produces wiring products for the biggest names in aerospace. Labinal already has operations in Everett, Wash., Salisbury, Md., Charleston, S.C., Wichita, Kan.; Denton, Texas, North Charleston, S.C., and Little Rock, Ark. The Mobile center will open in 2013 and eventually employ 50 engineers.

The addition of Safran adds another international company to this region's strong mix of companies with foreign roots (for a background story, see Chapter 1 of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-13). There's every reason to believe this region will continue attracting them.

Safran is no stranger to the United States. According to the company, its U.S. industrial footprint is the most extensive outside France. It includes 31 companies and joint ventures, with 58 locations across 22 states. The Safran Group has been involved in the U.S. aerospace, defense and security industries for more than four decades.

It provides a wide range of aerospace propulsion, security, aircraft braking and avionics products. The company's largest end-user is the Defense Department, with its technologies/products on KC-135R tankers, F-22 Raptors, UH-72A Lakotas and Delta IV launch systems. The company says Boeing is its largest single U.S. customer. Other customers are Bell, Sikorsky, Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier Aerospace, Airbus, Embraer, Dassault Aviation and Eurocopter.

Headquartered in Paris, Safran was formed by a merger between the aircraft and rocket engine maker and aerospace component manufacturer group Snecma and the security company Sagem in 2005. It has three main branches: aerospace propulsion, aircraft equipment -- of which Labinal is a part -- and defense security.

Its activities in the United States are handled by Safran USA of Arlington, Va. Its lineup includes commercial and military aircraft engines, aircraft braking and landing systems, and navigation systems for submarines. The company's nearest operation to Mobile is Globe Motors Inc. in Dothan, Ala., east of Fort Rucker.

A sister company of Safran Engineering also has ties to another company that recently moved into this region. Snecma is a 50/50 partner with GE Aviation in the joint company CFM International, which makes the CFM56 airliner engines in Ohio and France. GE Aviation is building a parts plant in Ellisville, near Hattiesburg. The CFM56 is used in Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Although Mobile got the first supplier, there's no doubt other areas are looking to cash in on the Airbus project. And in fact, Mobile's closest neighbors were just as interested in landing Safran, according to reports.

"We weren't surprised to have competition from our east and our west, but we just didn't think they'd be as aggressive as they were," Mobile Mayor Sam Jones told the Mobile Press Register after the announcement.

Jones said cities such as Pensacola, Fla., and Pascagoula, Miss., are certainly equipped to attract and house the caliber of support enterprises Airbus will require to support its Mobile facility, but Mobile is focused on cultivating the long-term relationships to continue attracting foreign investment to Mobile Bay.

In discussing regional teamwork in economic development, officials have always made it clear that they work together to help a neighbor land a big project if it's a finalist, but they do compete for individual projects. Some call it "coopetition." And that's what's happening right now.

Birmingham has begun its courtship of suppliers, according to a Q&A that appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal. Rick Davis, Birmingham Business Alliance senior vice president of economic development, joined the Alabama delegation in a trip to an aviation conference in Hamburg, Germany, last month, making the case for Birmingham. (Post)

And nearby Pensacola is also interested in getting in on the action. Pensacola has been courting for some time now a branch of ST Mobile Aerospace, which has a facility at Brookley Aeroplex. Pensacola leaders are pulling out all the stops to make it happen, according to Pensacola News Journal columnist Carlton Proctor. He also reports that Dothan, Ala., is interested in the company. (Column)

Hang on to your hats folks. It's going to get busy.

Ownership of Airbus parent EADS is changing, with France and Germany ending their grip on the board room two months after the collapse of merger talks with BAE Systems. The first beneficiary is German auto group Daimler, which raised over $2 billion selling holdings.

The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. owns, in addition to Airbus, businesses that build rocket and missile launhers, satellites, fighter aircraft and helicopters. Under the new plan, German and French state interests will hold 12 percent each, and Spain will hold 4 percent. (Post)

This should make day to day business a lot easier for EADS. Who knows, we may see a new effort to joint EADS and BAE Systems.

-- The objection of the U.S. Justice Department prompted United Technologies and TransDigm Group Inc. to terminate the previously announced sale of the Goodrich Corp. pump and engine control systems business to TransDigm of Cleveland.

Sale of the unit is one of the divestitures required by regulatory authorities as a condition of UTC's acquisition of Goodrich. UTC, of Hartford, Conn., intends to comply with its obligation to sell this business to a buyer acceptable to the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission. (Post)

This merger of of interest to the Gulf Coats region. The Goodrich Alabama Service Center is in Foley, Ala., and Rocketdyne, a United Technologies company that is being sold to GenCorp, assembles and tests rockets at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Unmanned systems
A Navy Fire Scout detachment returned to Mayport, Fla., earlier this month after achieving several milestones during its five-month deployment aboard USS Klakring. The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter detachment logged more than 500 flight hours in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility.

With a record number of unmanned helicopters aboard Klakring, Fire Scout regularly maintained 12-hour days on station and regularly switching aircraft to provide continuous support. The system accomplished a new single-day endurance record, providing ISR support for 24 hours. Dual air vehicle operations were also performed. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., by Northrop Grumman. (Post)

-- In Mississippi, unmanned aerial systems were the focus of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation dinner at the Ocean Springs Civic Center. George Freeland, executive director of JCEDF, said that in economic development, it's important to pursue fields with high potential.

And that's the case with UAVs. The county does finishing work on Fire Scouts and builds the fuselage for Global Hawk, including the Navy's version, Triton. The featured speakers at the dinner were Walt Kreitler, director of the Triton program for Northrop Grumman, and Michael Toscano, president and CEO of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. (Post)

-- Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia are partnering to establish a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aerial systems. The Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition hopes an FAA designation could make the region a focal point for contractors and start-ups alike. The FAA is set to select six unmanned system test sites, though the effort has been delayed. (Post)

-- A battery-powered Navy vehicles was lost in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City and Biltmore Beach late in the week. According to the Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., the command lost contact with the Remus 100 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle during a training exercise. The vehicle is black, 6 feet long and 7 inches in diameter. (Post)

U.S. Air Force Gen. Christopher Bogdan has been named head of the F-35 Program Office. Bogdan was the F-35 deputy program manager. In August, he was nominated to head the program by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He takes over for retiring Vice Adm. David Venlet. Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $386.7 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition Contract to provide sustainment support for delivered air systems. It includes ground maintenance activities, depot activation activities, support pilot and maintainer initial training and more.

Thirty-five percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the rest done at Ft. Worth, Texas, El Segundo, Calif., Warton, United Kingdom, and other locations in the United States. It’s expected to be completed in October 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Florida has awarded $1.58 million in Defense Infrastructure Grants for fiscal year 2012-13 to local community organizations that support Florida military installations. The grants work to protect a $60 billion economic impact and more than 686,000 direct and indirect jobs, which the defense industry annually infuses into Florida.

In Northwest Florida, awards were given to Bay County Board of County Commissioners, Santa Rosa County, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners. Okaloosa received awards for both Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)

-- A Hurlburt Field airman who rescued a Marine then was himself severely wounded by an improvised explosive device received the Silver Star last month at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Tech Sgt. Joe Deslauriers, an explosive ordnance technician with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron, lost both legs in the September 2011 explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Post)

-- Air Force Col. Walter J. Sams was nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general and for assignment as mobilization assistant to the commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall Air Force
Base, Fla. Sams' appointment was among 21 announced Friday. (Post)

-- Next year's air show at Tyndall Air Force Base has been canceled because of budget constraints. That's the word from Lt. Melanie Holiday, a base spokeswoman. Tyndall officials said they made the decision to stop planning for the event after careful review and consideration of fiscal responsibility of taxpayer dollars and mission requirements. (Post)

Vision Airlines and the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi will bring nonstop flights from Orlando to Gulfport, Miss., starting Feb. 6. Service will be three days a week on 136-seat Boeing 737 aircraft from Orlando Sanford International Airport. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, Fla., named John Van Etten as the new deputy chief of police. Van Etten has 28 years experience in law enforcement, and for the past eight years was police chief for the Panama City Police Department. (Post)

Economic development
The Army's 7th Special Forces Group, which opened its cantonment at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into the Okaloosa County economy between 2010 and 2016. That’s according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida. The 7th SFG moved to Eglin from its former home at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Post)

LPD 17: The Navy accepted delivery of the eighth LPD 17 class amphibious transport dock ship, the future USS Arlington (LPD 24), from Huntington Ingalls Industries on Friday. (Post)

Austal: Austal USA delivered the joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead to the U.S. Navy in a signing ceremony Wednesday. The 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran completed acceptance trials in August and will leave Mobile toward the end of this month. (Post)

Boat show: The International WorkBoat Show was held in New Orleans and thousands gathered for the three-day event. It’s touted as the largest maritime trade show in North America. (Post)

Wave Glider: U.S. based Liquid Robotics, an ocean data service provider and
developer of the Wave Glider, said a Wave Glider completed a 9,000 nautical mile scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. (Post)

VT Halter Marine: Ground was broken on a major expansion of VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula. The new ship repair facility will create 400 jobs at VT Halter Marine, which designs and builds ships for the military, among others. (Post)

L-3 Services: L-3 Services Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., was awarded a $12.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for field service representatives to perform maintenance and repair of the U.S. Marine Corps mine roller systems. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Huntington Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $54.5 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise the third option for Life Cycle Engineering and support services on the LPD 17-class Amphibious Transport Dock Ship program. Work will be performed in Pascagoula. (Post)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Week in review (11/25 to 12/1)

An Alabama delegation's trip to Germany; some milestones for the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat system; a delay in establishing six UAV test sites; a problem with cracks in the Orion crew vehicle; more rocket engine and component tests at Stennis Space Center; a contract to work on SSC’s B-2 test stand; and a weapons drop test for the F-35C were among the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

A delegation of economic development and elected officials from Alabama was in Germany during the week. They met with nine companies that may be interested in setting up shop in Alabama, where Airbus' plans to build a $600 million A320 assembly line at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

The group attended the two-day Aviation Forum 2012 in Hamburg, a supplier conference that drew representatives from about 150 companies. In a speech there, Gov. Robert Bentley touted Alabama's workforce and training programs. (Post)

"Suppliers can benefit from the same positive business climate that helped us attract Airbus. We're ready to work with companies and partner with them to bring even more jobs to Alabama," Bentley said.

Alabama has more than 300 aerospace-related companies, primarily in north Alabama. Bentley said the Airbus project will help spur additional aerospace development in other regions of the state.

"The fact that Airbus is bringing 1,000 new jobs to Alabama is a major achievement," Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a release from the governor's office. "But when you also consider that one assembly line job with Airbus could span as many as three to four additional jobs when related industry comes to support the company's needs, that means Alabama will be part of a major aerospace sector," he said.

According to the Mobile Press-Register, Canfield said the Mobile facility is expected to support an aerospace supply chain extending as far as 300 miles from Mobile. That means into Louisiana and Northwest Florida. Alabama is working with regional and local organizations to offer aerospace companies a new Supplier Support Network that will help them understand regulations, permitting, workforce recruitment, training opportunities and more.

"This year's Airbus announcement is, in many ways, similar to the announcement that Mercedes was coming to Alabama back in the 1990s," Bentley said in a release from his office. "Since then, not only has Mercedes opened, expanded and hired additional people, so have other automotive companies and suppliers. In fact, thousands of people work for automotive suppliers across the state."

He said that with Airbus jetliner production coming to Alabama, there's potential for similar growth in the aerospace industry.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy conducted the Navy's first catapult launch of an unmanned system, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System, or UCAS, demonstrator. The test was done at a shore-based catapult facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. There will be multiple shore-based catapult launches before an X-47B demonstrators is launched from a ship. (Post)

In Norfolk, Va., an X-47B UCAS demonstrator was hoisted on board aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, CVN 75, early in the week. The X-47B, which has a wider wingspan than an F/A-18 Super Hornet, will undergo a variety of tests. The test will be conducted over three weeks and will include in-port and underway demonstrations.

"The moment the aircraft set down on Truman's deck was the moment it officially met the fleet," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS program manager, who called it an historic moment. (Post)

A lot of folks in Moss Point, Miss., are keeping an eye on the X-47B. Northrop Grumman builds portions of two other UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, at a 101,000 square-foot facility north of Pascagoula.

-- The Federal Aviation Administration has indefinitely shelved a competition to select six test sites to assess whether unmanned aerial vehicles can be integrated into manned airspace. The agency was to have named the six sites by next month, but previously missed a July deadline for requesting applications.

Now the FAA is saying it needs to delay the competition because it needs to first address privacy concerns raised by the use of drone aircraft in the nation’s airspace. The goal of the test sites is to determine whether UAVs can safely be operated alongside manned aircraft by 2015. (Post) The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International sent a letter to the Department of Transportation and FAA urging the organizations to no longer delay the release of the test site RFP.

NASA is evaluating options for repairing the first Orion crew capsule scheduled to fly in space after it sustained cracks during pressure testing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The test was designed to demonstrate weld strength and structural performance at maximum flight operation pressures.

The damage is not expected to delay a 2014 test flight, where the capsule without a crew will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV to a distance 3,600 miles above the Earth. The core of the Orion was built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

-- A J-2X power pack assembly had a hot fire test Nov. 27 at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Engineers pulled the assembly from the test stand in September to install additional instrumentation in the fuel turbopump. The test verified the newly installed strain gauges designed to measure the turbine structural strain when the turbopump is spinning at high speeds that vary between 25,000 and 30,000 rotations-per-minute. The J-2X engine will power the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System. (Post)

-- The E Test Complex at Stennis Space Center was busy the week of Nov. 5. Twenty-seven tests were conducted in a three-day period on three different rocket engines/components and on three E Complex test stands. These included tests on the three stands during a 24-hour period Nov. 6-7 and during a nine-hour-plus period on Nov. 8. Test managers characterized the convergence of tests as historic. (Post)

-- EMCOR Group Inc. of Norwalk, Conn., said subsidiary Harry Pepper and Associates was awarded a task order by NASA under a previously awarded contract for restoration of the B-2 Rocket Test Stand at Stennis Space Center. The company will be responsible for all repairs and alterations necessary to restore the original functionality of the B-2 test stand. (Post)

-- The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., is opening an exhibit to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the last walk on the moon. John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell, Gene Krantz, Fred Haise, Eugene Cernan and more are all scheduled to attend the Dec. 15 opening of the exhibit, which will feature a replica of an Apollo Lunar Excursion Module. (Post)

-- The University of New Orleans is getting a three-year, $1.5 million grant from NASA to develop improvements to the nation's air traffic control system. A UNO news release says the research is for the comprehensive overhaul of the air traffic system to increase capacity and safety. UNO researchers will be joined on the project by colleagues from LSU and Southern University. (Post)

The F-35 integrated test force aboard Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., completed a weapons ejection milestone for the F-35 carrier variant Wednesday. CF-2, the second F-35C test aircraft, ejected a 2,000-pound inert GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb from an internal weapons bay into a foam-covered concrete pit, completing the series of first-ever ground weapons ejections for the F-35C.

In addition to the GBU-31 and GBU-12, the CF-2 team successfully ejected the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). Overall, the team completed eleven weapon releases, split between the left and right weapon bays, earlier than planned. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center. (Post)

Melinda Crawford is leaving her post as director of Pensacola International Airport to take a similar job in Charlottesville, Va. She’ll remain airport director in Pensacola until mid-February. She was named airport director in 2009. (Post) Earlier this year at another Gulf Coast airport, long-time Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport executive director Bruce Frallic retired and was replaced by Clay Williams.

-- Vision Airlines owes Northwest Florida Regional Airport $146,973, and the airport is considering legal action. Most of the money, $112,378, is unpaid passenger facility charges. The rest is unpaid utilities, rent and fuel for its ground servicing equipment, as well as late fees. Vision Airlines no longer serves the airport, but is still flying out of Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. (Post)

-- Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., are the finalists in the U.S. Air Force for the Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. The selection board will visit both bases in January. The winner will receive a $1 million award to invest in a quality-of-life element of the base. (Post)

-- Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal will host a ground breaking ceremony Wednesday for the Ground Ordnance Division and Tools and Methods Division’s building. The ceremony will take place behind the Kauffman Training Complex in Niceville, Fla. (Post)

Two companies were awarded contracts for work on training aircraft at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Naval Air Station Whiting Field and other Navy bases. BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services Inc., of Rockville, Md., was awarded a $76.6 million contract for organizational, intermediate, depot level maintenance for T-34 and T-44 aircraft. The contract also provides logistics support including labor, services, facilities, equipment, tools, related support equipment, and direct and indirect material to support 124 T-34, 55 T-44, 42 T-6A, and 141 T-6B aircraft based primarily at Naval Air Stations Corpus Christi, Texas, Whiting Field and Pensacola. In addition, Sikorsky Support Services Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $12.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance to support 179 T-34, 54 T-44 and 192 T-6 aircraft based primarily at NAS Corpus Christi, Whiting Field, and Pensacola. … CCI Group LLC, Shalimar, Fla., was awarded a $10 million contract for simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements-maintenance, repair and minor construction efforts. The location of the performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC/PZIO, Eglin. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $178.6 million contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase 1 of the B61-12 Tailkit Assembly. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBBC, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

CNO: Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, was in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week visiting Ingalls Shipbuilding and VT Halter Marine. At Ingalls he toured the amphibious assault ship America, LHA 6. (Post)

Contract: Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $26.6 million contract for Undersea Warfare product support. Work will be performed in California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi and Virginia. (Post)

The Mobile Press-Register reported that International Shipholding Corp. in Mobile successful closed its previously announced $111 million acquisition of Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. United Ocean Services LLC (Story). The paper also reported that the Coast Guard extended the due date for shipbuilders to submit proposals to design and construct the new Offshore Patrol Cutter to Jan. 23, 2013, from the previous deadline of Jan. 10 (Story).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Week in review (11/18 to 11/24)

A way for suppliers to hook up with Airbus; the ownership issue with EADS; F-16 drones at Tyndall Air Force Base; the return of F-22s to the air; the first UK pilots training on the F-35; formation of the first operational F-35 squadron; and solar power at Fort Rucker highlight the aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast during the week.

Here’s your week in review:

Interested in being a supplier for Airbus? You now have a tool at your disposal. The company's website has a tab that allows companies to register to become a supplier for the company's global operations and the $600 million A320 assembly facility that will be built in Mobile, Ala., at Brookley Aeroplex. Here's the link. (Post)

Speaking of the A320, China Eastern Airlines, one of that country's three major carriers, said Friday that it will buy 60 Airbus A320 aircraft in a deal worth $5.4 billion. That's according to several published reports. Shanghai-based China Eastern said the new aircraft will be delivered in stages from 2014 to 2017. Sales of A320s are of interest to Mobile, Ala., since it will begin building them in 2015.

Another topic of high interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region is the ownership of Airbus parent EADS. Early in the week Reuters reported that France and Germany were discussing a compromise where each country would hold around 12 percent of the aircraft maker. It's a complicated ownership structure, and that became apparent during the failed attempt to merge EADS and the UK's BAE Systems. (Post)

The first QF-16 drone for developmental testing arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., early last week. QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Right now the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. Boeing Global Services and Support will conduct testing on the QF-16. (Post)

The first operational squadron of F-35s began forming during the week at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., with the redesignation of an F/A-18 squadron as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. The squadron has received two F-35Bs, which can take off and land like a helicopter. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

Last week, the first two United Kingdom pilots started training with the F-35. They joined the U.S. Marines Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which is conducting initial training and instruction on the F-35B at Eglin. The U.K. pilots will take academic courses for about six weeks before they go on their first flights. (Post)

The 325th Fighter Wing resumed normal flight operations early in the week. Col. David Graff, the wing commander, stood the wing flying operations down following the crash of an F-22. In that incident, the pilot ejected safely and nobody on the ground was injured. Graff was the first to take to the air in an F-22. (Post)

A photovoltaic array being installed at Fort Rucker, Ala., is expected to save the Army money. The 51-kilowatt array is directly connected to Alabama Power's electrical grid, so any energy that is generated at Hatch Stage Field that isn't used can be fed back onto the grid. Fort Rucker is the primary flight training base for Army aviation. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $6.4 million contract to provide flight support for the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missile. The location of the performance is Tucson, Ariz. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBAD, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Dolphins: NOAA appointed an enforcement officer to investigate the mutilation and deaths of dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico. He's Richard Stifel, an enforcement officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Post)

Contract: Exelis Inc., Alexandria, Va., was awarded a $93.3 million contract to design, procure, install and maintain the Adaptive Persistent Awareness Systems. Work will be performed in various naval facilities worldwide. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week in review (11/11 to 11/17)

A briefing by the chairman of Airbus Americas, another step forward for Eglin's F-35 program, the crash of an F-22 at Tyndall, an expansion at L-3 Crestview Aerospace, groundbreaking for a resort on Air Force land and a couple of projects tied to the Airbus assembly line were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

Here's your week in review.

Participants in a media tour on Friday got a briefing from Allen McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas, about the company's plans to build a $600 million plant at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. It's so big, he doesn't think people will recognize this region in 20 years.

He said Brookley Aeroplex and the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor "is going to become one of those ‘holy cow we never thought that this was going to be as big as it is'" type of places. "I'm actually convinced that your horizon 20-25 years out, people are going to say I had no idea, no idea of the impact this would have." But the things that attracted Airbus won't go away.

McArtor said the A320 family of planes that will be build in Mobile is a program that has legs since it will be produced for years to come. It's a better deal for the region than the aerial tanker would have been or another Airbus aircraft.

Ground will be broken, ceremonially, in April 2013. Once finished, the assembly line will have the capacity to produce eight planes a month, though four is the plan right now. And the company has enough additional space available to build another campus.

Airbus has started to talk to research universities in the region about collaborative efforts. Along the Gulf Coast there are multiple research universities, some with full campuses, others with important programs. Many are involved in aerospace research or research related to aerospace, including advanced materials, human-machine cognition and others. He said he believes Airbus has an obligation to stimulate the state of the art by collaborating with universities.

Airbus also plans to be fully engaged in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities at the middle and high school levels. "I hope you see Airbus fingerprints on the educational systems of the Gulf Coast," he said.

Once the planes roll off the line in 2016, they'll become a common sight in the skies of this region. McArtor said there are several operating areas in the region where the planes could conduct acceptance flights, both over land and over the Gulf of Mexico. The list includes military operating areas. "There are a number of options," he said. Each plane will have builder acceptance flights and customer acceptance flights.

McArtor is clearly excited about the future of this region, and what the Mobile campus can be. "I intend to make this the example within Airbus," so when projects come down the pike Mobile will be a strong contender.

He said one of the appealing aspects of producing in the United States is the wealth of boutique suppliers. Airbus is already spending $12 billion a year in the United States, and expects to double that. It will be buying everything from materials for the new assembly line to parts for the jetliners.

"We're getting drowned with calls right now, but that's OK," he said.

Lots of companies are interested in becoming suppliers. Earlier in the media tour, the folks from L-3 Crestview Aerospace in Crestview, Fla., made it clear they're pursuing work with Airbus. As Jeff Barger, vice president and general manager put it, "we're all over it."

The company, which has had a high degree of success in the defense market, is gearing up to pursue commercial contracts, and Airbus is a part of that plan. L-3 Crestview Aerospace is one of the companies in the "halo" area that McArtor talks about. Over the next few years L-3 Crestview Aerospace has expansion plans that will increase its footprint at Bob Sikes Airport, near Crestview, by 25 percent.

Work is already under way on the expansion. The company announced during the week that it's investing more than $7 million in facilities upgrades, including the retrofit of hangar space. As part of these expansion activities, L-3 CA has increased its workforce. (Post)

-- Although ground won't be broken on the Airbus plant until next year, work is well underway to prepare for the assembly line. The Mobile Press Register wrote during the week that Watermark Design Group was chosen to design the first structure associated with Airbus’ plant at Brookley Aeroplex. The 35,000-square-foot, multi-story training facility for the Alabama Industrial Development Training program will house labs and classrooms to train potential Airbus employees. (Post)

The newspaper earlier reported that some $12 million could be spent to repave or completely restore roads near Brookley. The City Council approved an engineering portion on one of those contracts: a $105,000 with Geotechnical Engineering-Testing Inc., for soil and concrete testing along the deteriorated Broad Street between 15th Street and Interstate 10. (Post)

-- A relative, so to speak, of Airbus got a contract award during the week. The U.S. Army awarded EADS North America a $181.8 million contract option to deliver 34 more UH-72A Lakota helicopters, bringing the total aircraft ordered to date to 312. EADS North America has delivered 243 Lakotas from its American Eurocopter plant in Columbus, Miss., where up to five aircraft per month are produced. American  Eurocopter is part of EADS North America, a subsidiary of EADS. Airbus is also a subsidiary of EADS. (Post)

Economic development
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce President Win Hallett is retiring next year. He made the announcement at the annual board of directors meeting Friday. Hallett, who has been president since 1991, will retire when a successor is on board.

The chamber is the lead industry recruiter for the Mobile area, and has played a prominent role in a string of Mobile job recruitment wins, most notably the decision of Airbus to build an A320 assembly plant at Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

I've known Hallett since the early 90s, when I worked for the Mobile newspaper, first as a business reporter and later the business editor. He's always been approachable, the epitome of a Southern gentleman with a wealth of knowledge about Mobile and, importantly, the state and region. In fact, some of our earliest conversations concerned a regional approach to economic development.

It almost seems like short-changing Hallett just to mention Airbus. You can add Austal and Thyssen Krupp to that list, as well as many other projects. But I know Hallett well enough that I'll predict he'll remain engaged.

Last week I wrote about another economic development leader, Larry Sassano, leaving the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County after more than 15 years as president. But he's not going away. He's taking over as head of Florida's Great Northwest, a group representing 16 counties in the Panhandle. He reflected on the future in an interview with the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post)

The $25 million hotel that will be built on Eglin Air Force Base property on Okaloosa Island, Fla., will be a Holiday Inn. Innisfree and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are partnering on the project. A groundbreaking for the 152-room resort was held Friday. The hotel will have two towers, and the Air Force will have radar stations on the roofs. The Air Force will collect rent from the developers. (Post)

At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Col. David Graff took command of the 325th Fighter Wing from Brig. Gen. John K. McMullen. The change of command ceremony was Wednesday. (Post). McMullen, who is moving to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to become Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Headquarters Allied Air Command, took his "fini flight" in an F-22 Raptor Nov. 9. The fini flight marks the end of a pilot's flying time at a unit. (Post)

It didn’t take long before Graff had a rather unpleasant issue to deal with. An F-22 on a routine training mission crashed inside the perimeter of the base Thursday afternoon. But on the bright side, the pilot ejected and nobody on the ground was hurt. The Panama City News Herald reported that Graff said there was nothing to indicate the crash was connected with the oxygen issue that caused the grounding of F-22s last year. (Post)

Further to the west over at Eglin Air Force Base, another high-tech aircraft hit a milestone. The last of 24 sorties of the Operational Utility Evaluation of the F-35 was completed Wednesday afternoon. That’s a big step towards opening the F-35 training pipeline.

Lt. Col. Brian O’Neill, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron director of operations and a “student” in the OUE at Eglin, was at the controls. The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirkland Air Force Base, N.M., will certify the OUE is complete in the near future.

Air Force officials started the F-35A OUE Sept. 10. In the evaluation data is collected from all facets of F-35 training, including maintenance, classroom, simulator and flights as a precursor for the Air Force to train other services and allies. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems Division, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $18.4 million contract modification for the high-speed, anti-radiation Missile Targeting System R7 contractor logistics support services. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBAK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Week in review (11/4 to 11/10)

Production begins on the maritime version of Global Hawk; the first ad for a job at Airbus' plant in Mobile; word from Boeing that its sales are ahead of Airbus; the 500-sortie milestone for the F-35; positive reports from pilots and maintainers about the F-35; a memorial service at Eglin; and a change of command for the Blue Angels were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., this week will begin production of the Triton unmanned system, a variant of the Global Hawk being built for the Navy for maritime surveillance. That's according to the Sun Herald. The 101,000 square-foot plant will work on the central fuselages of the first three of what will eventually be 68 Navy Tritons.

The MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance aircraft has a different sensor payload than the Air Force, German or NASA versions of the Global Hawk. The Moss Point plant does central fuselage work for all variants of the Global Hawk. It also does finishing work on the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. (Post)

Speaking of unmanned aerial systems, Camp Shelby, a 137,000-acre training center south of Hattiesburg, Miss., is a key training center for the smaller unmanned systems like Puma, Raven and Shadow. National Guard, reserve and active duty soldiers come to the flight center, which opened in the spring, for training with those systems.

Camp Shelby Joint Training Center is the nation's largest state-owned mobilization center. Earlier this year it was selected as the site of the new $48 million regional flight center for the Army National Guard's Unmanned Aircraft System. It was chosen from 19 sites, and has been used by many tactical unmanned air system units for training prior to overseas deployment.

The Hattiesburg American had a feature story about the training. (Post)

The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in unmanned systems. As mentioned above, Fire Scout and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and the military trains with UAVs not only at Camp Shelby, but at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

And more is to come to the region. Over in Okaloosa County, Fla., economic development leaders hope to develop a 45,000-square-foot Autonomous Vehicle Center that will be used to test small unmanned air and ground vehicles. Plans are to build the $4.5 million Autonomous Vehicle Center at the University of Florida's Research and Engineering Education Facility near Eglin Air Force Base.

Airbus posted its first ad for a job at the plant it will build at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. It's for a director of human resources, according to the Mobile Press-Register. The $600 million plant that will assemble the A320 family of jetliners will eventually employ 1,000 people.

The announcement was released in cooperation with Alabama Industrial Development Training, Airbus' Alabama-based recruiting partner. Construction will begin in summer 2013, with aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015. The first delivery will be in 2016. (Post)

That assembly line in Mobile will have an impact across Alabama and the Southeast through new suppliers, new jobs and new business for the state's existing industrial base. That's according to Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas Inc., who was keynote speaker Friday at a Birmingham Business Alliance luncheon.

McArtor, who said Birmingham is well within the supply-chain radius for the plant, also pointed out that Airbus is an innovative company and said there's potential for Airbus to collaborate with Alabama's universities. (Post)

No doubt if Birmingham is in that supply-chain radius, a lot of areas along the coast are as well.

-- The fuel-efficient version of the A320, the A320neo, will be shown off at the 9th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition Nov. 13-18 in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai. A scale cutaway of the neo will be displayed at the EADS stand. It's the first time for Airbus to showcase an A320neo model in China. (Post)

-- Meanwhile, Airbus rival Boeing reported it has secured more than 1,000 net new orders so far this year, putting it on course to sell more aircraft than Airbus for the first time since 2006. The orders are primarily driven by airliner demand for 737 narrow-body jets. Boeing sales are running at more than double those of Airbus. (Post)

-- Boeing is restructuring its defense, space and security businesses with plans to reduce
management positions 30 percent and close and consolidate several facilities in California. The company says the change is not directly related to sequestration or the presidential election. Boeing has operations along the Gulf Coast. (Post)

The F-35 surpassed its 500th sortie 16 days after reaching the 400 mark and only 238 days from the beginning of the program. Maj. Matthew Johnston of the 58th Fighter Squadron completed the 500th combined sortie for both the F-35A and F-35B at the 33rd Fighter Wing Nov. 2. The wing started flight operations March 6. (Post)
-- Initial feedback about the F-35 from Air Force pilots and maintainers at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., indicate it performs better than its predecessors did at a similar stage of development. The F-35 is proving to be relatively stable from a maintenance standpoint, said Col Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing. (Post)

A memorial service was held Monday for Maj. Garrett Knowlan at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Knowlan died Oct. 11 while participating in survival training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. At the time of his death, Knowlan was serving as the executive officer for Brig. Gen. David Harris, the 96th Test Wing commander. (Post)

-- Capt. Greg McWherter, who has led the Blue Angels for the past four years, turned over command during a ceremony the day after the team's final show of the season last weekend. The new leader is Cmdr. Tom Frosch, who’s been in the Navy for 20 years. The team is based at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Post)

Economic development
Larry Sassano is leaving Okaloosa County's economic development group Nov. 30 to take the top spot at Florida's Great Northwest. Kay Rasmussen, vice president of community and economic development for the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, was named interim director of the Okaloosa EDC. (Post)

L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a  $28.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for organizational, selected intermediate and limited depot level maintenance for F-16, F-18, H-60 and E-2C aircraft operated by the adversary squadrons based at Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nev. … Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $12.3 million contract modification for the delivery of modified control sections for the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (AGM-88). The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBAS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

LPD 24: The amphibious transport dock Arlington (LPD 24) returned from successful Navy acceptance sea trials. While in the Gulf of Mexico, there were more than 200 test events. (Post)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Week in review (10/28 to 11/3)

A decision to provide more land for Air Force training and progress on the high-tech F-35 helmet highlighted aerospace activities of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week. Here's your week in review:

The Air Force will be allowed to conduct training exercises on state forest lands in the
Florida Panhandle. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Florida Forest Service signed an agreement that allows the Air Force to use some areas in the Blackwater River State Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest near Apalachicola.

Specifics of how and when the lands will be used will be determined over the next few months.

David Core, assistant director of the Forest Service, told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the military is vital to the economy, and it needs more room. As Eglin has continued to grow, the Air Force approached the state about using the land to increase its capacity to conduct training missions, Brig. Gen. David Harris, commander of the 96th Test Wing, wrote in an e-mail to the paper. He said the extra space will alleviate congestion. (Post)

The Air Force is a major landowner in Northwest Florida. Eglin Air Force Base is 450,000 acres and Tyndall Air Force Base is about 30,000. The Navy is also a major landowner in Northwest Florida.

-- The Blue Angels performed Friday and Saturday in their final show of the season at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The Blue Angels always perform twice during the year in their hometown. One show is in the summer at Pensacola Beach and the homecoming is at the base.

Lockheed Martin reported progress with its cutting-edge helmets that will be used with the F-35. Executive VP Tom Burbage said the helmet's night-vision performance was the "only real question" left in resolving the helmet issues, but progress has been made on that.

The helmet, which integrates data from all sensors and cameras aboard the jet, was designed by a joint venture between Rockwell Collins Inc. and Israel's Elbit Systems. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

NASA provided businesses an update on the Space Launch System during a seminar at Michoud Assembly Facility during the week. It drew about 150 people. The core stage of the 70-ton SLS, designed to carry astronauts into deep space, will be built at Michoud by Boeing. The engines that will power two stages will be tested at Stennis Space Center, about 40 miles away in Mississippi. An unmanned test of SLS is scheduled for 2017. (Post)

-- John C. Stennis Space Center held an event on space travel and the center's role in space at the Wal-Mart in Picayune, Miss. Saturday. Activities included learning about how people live and work in space, hands-on educational activities and facts about the International Space Station. More than 5,000 people are employed at SSC, which has a $682 million in economic impact. (Post)

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $18.3 million contract for integration and weapon verification support. Work is expected to be completed by December 2016. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Austal: John "Dugan" Shipway, a retired Navy admiral, has been elected to chair the board of Austal USA in Mobile. Shipway, who spent 35 year in the Navy, joined the Austal USA board in March as an outside director. (Post)

Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. is holding a job fair Nov. 8 in Pensacola, Fla., hoping to eventually hire nearly 2,000 workers for Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

McIlwain: Longtime marine biologist Thomas D. McIlwain died after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 71. McIlwain had a 50-year career and spend most of his time at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week in review (10/21 to 10/27)

Soothing words from a general about Eglin, a report about encroachment, an award for Keesler, a command change, two more F-35s at Eglin and a weapons test were among the aerospace activities for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Consolidation of Air Force Materiel Command from 12 to five centers was not designed to pave the way for moving Eglin Air Force Base’s research, development, test and evaluation function to Edwards AFB, Calif. Brig. Gen. Arnold Bunch, director of Edwards’ Air Force Test Center, told the Florida Defense Support Task Force at a meeting during the week that he's striving to keep Eglin's RDT&E function viable.

Since the reorganization was announced late last year, leaders in Northwest Florida have been concerned about the fate of Eglin's multimillion-dollar RDT&E function. The consolidation was carried out in July.

The task force was created in 2010 to protect Florida's 20 bases. (Post)

-- Santa Rosa County during the week got the final version of the Eglin Air Force Base Small Area Studies report on encroachment. It recommends Santa Rosa amend land development code and enact 35- to 50-foot height restrictions, depending on the location in the proposed Eglin Military Airport Zone. Officials also should identify land uses that would be compatible with the base’s mission and reduce the maximum allowable density of developments. (Post)

-- While on the subject of Gulf Coast bases, for the second year in a row, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., won the highest command-level honor it can receive. The 81st Training Wing, which runs Keelser, won the Air Education and Training Command’s Commander-In-Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. Keesler is AETC's nomineee because of the base's exemplary support of Defense Department missions. (Post)

-- At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Lt. Col. Joseph P. Kendall has assumed command of the 53rd Test Support Squadron. He replaced Lt. Col. James A. Sukenik, who is now the deputy commander of the 53rd Weapons and Evaluation Group. (Post)

-- An air traffic control tower at Florida's Destin Airport is inching forward. A tower would allow for simultaneous launches of planes at Destin and the Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base. Right now planes at Destin must wait while traffic clears at the Eglin airport. The county commission still has to vote to proceed, and an environmental assessment will have to be done. (Post)

Two more F-35s arrived during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, home of the F-35 training center. One was a United Kingdom F-35, the second UK jet now at the base. The other was the 11th Marine Corps F-35. They took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base for the 90-minute flight. (Post)

Meanwhile, out in California, an F-35 test aircraft completed the first aerial weapons release of an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. Aircraft AF-1 jettisoned the instrumented AIM-120 over the China Lake test range from an internal weapons bay. It was the second in-flight weapons release in three days for AF-1. Earlier it released a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition. (Post)

Spatial disorientation. That's what an investigative board concluded caused a February plane crash in Africa that killed four Hurlburt Field, Fla., airmen. Capt. Ryan P. Hall, Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten died when their U-28A troop support aircraft crashed near Djibouti. Spatial disorientation is the failure to correctly sense the position, motion or attitude of the aircraft in relation to the ground. (Post)

-- An active-duty Hurlburt airman who was found dead last weekend after a boating accident in Okaloosa County was identified as Airman 1st Class Colby Siegel, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The cause of the accident is under investigation. (Post)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a
$34.7 million contract for acquisition of aircraft maintenance support services for T-1A, T-6A, T-38C SUPT and T-38C IFF. The location of the performance is Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. (Post)