Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week in review (7/22 to 7/28)

The sale of Rocketdyne, completion of United Technologies' acquisition of Goodrich, a milestone for NASA's Space Launch System, the first international F-35 arrival at Eglin, the lifting of F-22 restrictions, and a report warning that Eglin is at risk of closing were among the stories during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

Here's the week in review:

Corporate changes
United Technologies reached an agreement to sell Rocketdyne to aerospace manufacturer GenCorp Inc. for $550 million. Rocketdyne, the world's largest maker of liquid-fueled rocket propulsion systems, will nearly double GenCorp's size.

For Stennis Space Center, Miss., Rocketdyne becoming a part of GenCorp is an interesting convergence of two companies with activities at SSC. GenCorp owns Aerojet, which produces solid-fuel rocket motors and liquid propellant rocket engines, and tests its AJ-26 at SSC. Those engines will power the first stage of Orbital Science's Antares rockets, one of the commercial rocket systems slated to bring cargo to the International Space Station.

Rocketdyne has had an operation at SSC since 2000, when it was still part of Boeing. It assembles and tests rocket engines, including the RS-68 used by United Launch Alliance, as well as the RS-25, better known as the space shuttle main engines. Those engines are being repurposed to power the first stage of NASA's Space Launch System. (Post)

Rocketdyne was sold to help fund UT's $18.4 billion takeover of Goodrich Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., which was completed during the week. Goodrich is being combined with UT's Hamilton Sundstrand to create the new UTC Aerospace Systems business unit, headquartered in Charlotte. Goodrich operates an aerospace center in Foley, Ala. (Post)

NASA's Space Launch System passed a major NASA review during the week with completion of a combined System Requirements Review and System Definition Review. SLS now moves ahead to its preliminary design phase.

The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads, and provide a new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Rocketdyne RS-25 core stage and J-2X upper-stage rocket engines will be tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The Boeing Co. in Huntsville, Ala., is designing the SLS core stage, which will be built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and tested at SSC before being shipped to Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (Post)

-- Speaking of the J-2X, that engine's powerpack was test fired during the week for 1,350 seconds on the A-1 test stand, surpassing the 1,150-second firing of June 8. The powerpack sits atop the J-2X engine and feeds the thrust chamber, which produces the engine fire and thrust.

The advantage of testing the powerpack without the thrust chamber is to operate over a wide range of conditions to understand safe limits. The test gathered data on performance of the liquid oxygen and fuel pumps during extreme conditions. (Post)

-- NASA engineers at SSC recently conducted tests on a liquid methane, liquid oxygen engine used to power the Project Morpheus lander. The tests was over several days at SSC’s E-3 Test Stand.

Morpheus could carry a variety of payloads, including robots, small rovers and labs, to the moon or other celestial bodies. The NASA-designed and built Morpheus is one of 20 small projects comprising NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Program. (Post)

-- While we’re on the topic of advanced systems, some fascinating work is going on in Huntsville, Ala., that could revolutionize space travel. Scientists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing are doing research on a thermonuclear propulsion system.

They are assembling at the Aerophysics Research Center at Redstone Arsenal a huge piece of machinery that in a past life tested nuclear weapons effects. Now called "Charger-1 Pulsed Power Generator," it will be one of the largest and most powerful pulse power systems in the academic world.

As envisioned, multiple launch vehicles would put the required components into orbit, where the spacecraft would be assembled and a pulsed fusion engine would launch the spacecraft from high Earth orbit. Nuclear fusion propulsion, an idea that’s been around for a long time, would cut fuel needed to a few tons instead of thousands of tons. (Post)

On the surface it doesn't seem like Aeromexico's decision to buy up to 100 planes from Boeing worth $11 billion is something of interest to the Gulf Coast, but as with many activities in aerospace, there's are local ties.

Mexico's global airlines placed a provisional order for 90 Boeing 737 MAX jets and 10 Boeing 787s. That’s interesting to Mobile, Ala., simply because the 737 is the direct competitor of the A320 that will eventually be assembled at Brookley Aeroplex.

Each 787 will use two GEnx engines, built by GE Aviation. Composite fan platforms and cases for the GEnx are made by GE Aviation in Batesville, Miss., and turbine ignitions components, sensors and harnesses for the GEnx are made in Jacksonville, Fla.

GE Aviation also is building engine parts facilities near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala. One more interesting Gulf Coast spin: GE Aviation competes with Rolls-Royce to power the 787, and Rolls-Royce airliner engines are tested at its outdoor facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Airbus ripples
In Alabama, things are moving ahead in Baldwin County to create an aviation training center for public high school students at Fairhope airport. The $2 million facility will be located at the Sonny Callahan Airport. It will provide technical training to prepare students for jobs in the aviation industry, such as those expected to be produced when Airbus begins building A320 aircraft at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex. Training will begin in August 2013. (Post)

-- Supporters of St. Elmo Airport hope to market the 738-acre general aviation airport as a job creator for the south-Mobile County community. The airport, 18 miles from Brookley Aeroplex, is state-owned and has 20 hangars and a 4,000-foot landing strip. The state has been positioning the airport take advantage of opportunities such as Airbus' decision to locate its first U.S. assembly plant at Brookley. (Post)

The first international F-35 arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week and it's now with the Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron 501. ZM135, an F-35B, combines short take off and vertical landing technology with supersonic speed and stealth. The F-35B pairs a Pratt and Whitney F135 engine and the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem. The UK was the first of eight international partners to join the F-35 program and plans to acquire the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. (Post)

-- The Air National Guard recently took its first turn at the controls of an F-35. Maj. Jay Spohn, the chief of standards and evaluation at the 33rd Operations Group, flew on July 16. He’s one of two Guard pilots and two Reserve pilots in training with the 33rd Wing at Eglin. (Post)

The Air Force has identified the cause of hypoxia-like symptoms a dozen F-22 pilots suffered, and flight restrictions gradually will be lifted. The Air Force made two changes: The first was to order pilots not to wear the pressure garment vest during high-altitude missions. The vest inflates to stop blood from pooling, which would cause pilots to black out during high-speed turns. The Air Force found that a faulty valve caused the vest to inflate and remain inflated under conditions where it was not designed to inflate. A canister filter was also removed from the oxygen delivery system, increasing the volume of air flowing to pilots. F-22 pilots are trained at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Air Force weapons experts will brief industry Oct. 4, 2012 on the progress and future needs of a program to develop a rocket-propelled bomb for the F-35 that can attack and destroy enemy bunkers, tunnel complexes, and other buried targets.

The briefings will concern progress on the Air Force High Velocity Penetrating Weapon Flagship Capability Concept (HVPW FCC) program. The program seeks to develop technologies for a future hard-target munition in preparation for a 2014 weapon demonstration. The goal is to build a 2,000-pound weapon with solid-rocket propulsion with the power of a 5,000-pound gravity bomb. (Post)

Is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., at risk of being closed in any new round of base closings? That's what a recent Kiplinger Report says. The report, which cited unnamed sources on Capitol Hill and others, lists Eglin along with eight other bases. The article said Eglin’s work could be transferred to bases in the Northwest.

But it shouldn't be taken seriously, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. He points out that Congress has no appetite for another base closing round. David Goestch, chairman of the Florida Defense Support Task Force, also disagreed with the assessment of the risk to Eglin, which received additional missions from the last base closing round. He thinks folks from California who want Eglin's missions planted the idea with Kiplinger. (Post)

Army Fleet Support, Fort Rucker, Ala., was awarded a $2 billion contract to provide aviation maintenance services. Work will be done in Fort Rucker, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2017.

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $1.5 billion modification to previously awarded contract for the procurement of the detail design and construction of LPD 27. (Post)

NOAA ship: A research vessel that was expected to have a service lifespan of 20 to 25 years when it was launched in 1967 is going on its 300th research cruise and has now chalked up 45 years of service. (Post)

Workers: The first of 10 barges was christened and launched during the week at TY
Offshore in Gulfport, Miss., and company officials said they need more workers to keep pace. (Post)

Commissioning: The Navy this weekend was scheduled to christen the newest amphibious transport dock ship, Somerset, during a ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La. (Post)

Award: Two teams of engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (Fla.) Division were among 19 commands and installations to receive the 2012 Department of the Navy Safety Excellence Award. (Post)

Innovators: The Office of Naval Research opened online registration for its biennial Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference Oct. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. (Post)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Week in review (7/15 to 7/21)

If a column in the Mobile Press-Register is right, the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala., will undergo major changes in the coming years, and so will the area surrounding the former military base. George Talbot wrote during the week that city and state officials have developed a vision for Brookley since the Airbus decision to place an A320 assembly line there and a trip to London for the Farnborough International Air Show.

Brookley is likely to become a showplace for Airbus in the United States, a place the aerospace giant can use to entertain airline customers, conduct annual supplier conferences and host visiting dignitaries. That means a massive renovation of Brookley's infrastructure, and likely the area around Brookley will change if private investors see the potential. (Column) The newspaper also reported that the impact of the assembly line on the local economy will be enough to make Mobile a better bet for lenders, according to Moody’s Investor Service. (Story)

Joe Max Higgins Jr., chief executive officer of Mississippi's Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK, said he thinks Mobile is in for a big ride. He saw that with Columbus, which saw a lot of growth after the same company that owns Airbus established a helicopter manufacturing plant a decade ago. (Story) The American Eurocopter plant started as an assembly facility, but now makes helicopters from the ground up for the military and law enforcement. Officials from Airbus hope to learn from that plant. (Post)

-- When people talk about growth associated with Airbus they are usually talking about how the plant will become a magnet and draw in suppliers. Airbus has a global supply chain with more than 1,500 primary contractors in over 30 countries for components, parts, systems and hardware. The document with approved suppliers is over 140 pages long.

For the A320 single-aisle jetliner alone there are some 400 suppliers of materials, components, airframe systems, avionics, power systems and more. Big names include GE Aviation, Goodrich, Eaton Aerospace, United Technologies' Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell Aerospace, and Rockwell Collins. And here’s a name that will register with Mobile folks: AVIC SAC Commercial Aircraft Co. of China.

So are these the companies to target? Well, sure, but that the list isn't static. Companies that aren't suppliers now may be in the future, and they may opt to open up shop along the Gulf Coast. Airbus has even been looking in Washington, Boeing's stomping grounds, for suppliers, according to the Seattle Times. (Post)

Any new company has plenty of options for sites in this region. In just Mobile County and the counties to the immediate east and west there are at least 56 listed "sites" with nearly 35,700 available acres, from small ones to huge parcels.

Mobile County has 13 sites totaling some 8,232 acres, with about 3,410 available, according to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. In Jackson County, Miss., to the west of Mobile County, there are 10 sites with a combined 2,200 available acres, according to a list at the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation website. The best-known is the Jackson County Aviation Technology Park, home to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center that builds portions of the Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems.

To the east of Mobile in Baldwin County, Ala., there are 33 sites with 30,064 available acres, according to EDPA. The largest is Magnolia North in Loxley, with 15,114 available acres, followed by five other sites that have between 1,900 to 2,718 acres. Some sites in Baldwin County have airport access.

And while I don't want to stray too far away from those three counties, there's at least one other site in this region that was a finalist when EADS was looking for a place to build tankers for the Air Force. It's in Kiln, Miss., near Stennis Space Center.

So is there enough room here? I'd say so.

My weekly column isn't complete without something new about the F-35 program. As you're no doubt aware, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home to the F-35 training center that will be used by all branches of the military and allies. Here's a rundown of what happened during the week.

-- Talks between the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin over the next F-35 production contract, the fifth one for as many as 30 F-35s, have been under way since last year and may be wrapping up soon. The first four contracts for 63 jets are exceeding their combined target cost by $1 billion, according to congressional auditors. (Post)

-- The United Kingdom accepted the first international Lockheed Martin F-35 in a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. The U.K. was the first of eight international partners to join the F-35 program and plans to acquire the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. (Post)

-- At Eglin, Marine Lt. Col. David Berke, commanding officer for the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, completed the 100th F-35 sortie at the 33rd Fighter Wing July 11. The 33 FW’s flights completed include 74 F-35A sorties and F-35B sorties. (Post)

The Air Armament Center was formally deactivated during a ceremony Wednesday. Eglin Air Force Base's aerial weapons development missions now falls under the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, and its test missions is now under the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Eglin’s research, development, testing, and evaluation tasks will remain at Eglin. (Post)

-- Col. James Vogel assumed command of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group during an assumption of command ceremony at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Vogel was previously the commander of Detachment 6, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Post) Also at Tyndall, Lt. Col. R. Travis Koch took over command of the 43rd Fighter Squadron. Koch is a command pilot with more than 2,000 flight hours, primarily in the F-15C and F-22. (Post)

-- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz made his final flight as an active duty officer aboard an MC-130E Combat Talon last week. The flight was at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The MC-130E he flew belongs to the 919th Special Operations Wing, a Reserve wing at Duke Field, Fla. The general’s retirement ceremony is Aug. 10 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. (Post)

Raytheon's GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II program achieved a milestone when it successfully engaged and hit a moving target during a flight test at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Air Force runs the program from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- A Rolls-Royce Boeing 747 "flying test bed" is at Tucson (Ariz.) International Airport as part of a project with Raytheon Technical Services to test the Trent 1000. Raytheon won a contract with Rolls-Royce to provide site test and maintenance operations services for the flying test bed. Rolls-Royce tests jetliner engines at its outdoor test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin completed on-orbit testing of the first Mobile User Objective System satellite, designated MUOS-1, paving the way for the U.S. Navy's multi-service operational test and evaluation phase in preparation for the start of operations in August 2012. Work on the propulsion system for the MUOS, an A2100 satellite-based spacecraft, is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The four states with a piece of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor would lose a combined 158,341 jobs as a result of automatic governments spending cuts due to kick in  Jan. 2. That's according to a study commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group of aerospace manufacturers. Florida would lose 79,456 jobs, Alabama would lose 38,778. Louisiana would see 28,432 jobs go away and Mississippi 11,672. (Post)

EADS North America Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded a $9.7 million contract to provide engineering support services. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2016.

LCS: The Navy concluded that its littoral combat ships, a version of which is made in Mobile, Ala., by Austal USA, would take weeks to change missions, not days as originally hoped. (Post)

Underwater: Teledyne Benthos of Massachusetts signed a five-year contract with the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center, Miss., for deep-sea equipment to collect underwater data. (Post)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Week in review (7/8 to 7/14)

The Farnborough International Air Show in London was the high-interest event for folks from the Gulf Coast region, in part because of Airbus' decision to build an A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. But it was a week packed with aerospace news.

In Mobile, the city council and county commission approved incentives for Airbus, and machinists said they will try to organize the future Airbus plant. One the space front, NASA wants to spend million to refurbish Stennis Space Center's B-2 test stand, while at another test stand a J-2X had a long-duration test. Also during the week, a former director at SSC said he's leaving NASA to join Aerojet.

It was a busy week for news about the region's military bases as well, including more F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base, several command changes and the awarding of Bronze Stars to two medics. And contracts? There were a lot of them.

Here's your week in review:

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said he supports NASA's proposal to rehabilitate and reuse the B-2 rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. NASA wants to spend $12 million to initiate the project, with total spending expected to reach $168 million through 2014. The stand would be used to test engines for the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System program, designed to send astronauts on deep space missions. The core stage, powered by the same engines that were used in the space shuttle program, will be built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

On another test stand at SSC, the A-2 Test Stand, NASA engineers during the week conducted a 550-second test of the J-2X rocket engine. It was the latest tests in a series of firings to gather data for engine development. This was the first flight-duration test of the engine's nozzle extension, a bell shaped device to increase engine performance. The Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne J-2X engine will power the upper-stage of a two-stage Space Launch System, which will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads. The Orion is being built in New Orleans at Michoud. (Post)

-- This was kind of a shocker. Acting Marshall Space Flight Center Director Gene Goldman said early last week that he's retiring from the space agency in August to lead Aerojet's southeast regional operations. Aerojet and Teledyne Brown Engineering will build a new rocket engine in Huntsville, Ala., that will be marketed to NASA and the Air Force. Goldman is the former director of Stennis Space Center, Miss. Aerojet tests its AJ-26 engine at SSC. (Post)

-- SpaceX has completed a design review of the crewed version of the Dragon spacecraft that in May successfully docked with the International Space Station. SpaceX is one of several companies working to develop crew transportation capabilities under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. (Post)

Airbus Mobile
During the week the Mobile City Council and Mobile County Commission approved incentives for Airbus worth $29 million for that $600 million, seven-building, 116-acre complex at Brookley Aeroplex. The state and the Mobile Airport Authority have pledged $129.5 million, bringing the total incentive package to $158.5 million. (Post)

While much has been said about Alabama being a right to work state, it's actually one of the most unionized in the South. Now the International Association of Machinists says it will try to organize Airbus' workers in Mobile when the assembly line opens. IAM President Tom Buffenbarger said the union has a good relationship with Airbus. (Post)

ST Aerospace Mobile President Joseph Ng said his company at Brookley Aeroplex, looks forward to opportunities to work with Airbus. He also said that a rumor that the company, which does maintenance, modification and repair of aircraft, is considering a move to Pensacola, Fla., is just that, a rumor. He admits he did meet with Pensacola officials, but provide no details. (Post)

Less than a week after the announcement that Airbus will build an A320 assembly line in Mobile, the first "cutting of metal" for the A320neo version took place in Toulouse, France. It involved the machining of the first component for the engine pylon, the structures that hold the engine to the wing. (Post)

Speaking of the A320, China Aircraft Leasing Co., a Hong Kong based aircraft leasing company, signed a memorandum of understanding at the Farnborough International Air show for 36 current generation A320s. CALC currently owns 11 Airbus aircraft including five A320s, five A321s and one A330. It also has three A330s and five A320s aircraft in its delivery pipeline. (Post)

A reception in London just before the Farnborough International Air Show drew 500 dignitaries. Airbus' decision to build an assembly line in Mobile, Ala., made the reception, hosted by the Aerospace Alliance, a must event. Delegates from Mobile said they had a full dance card of meetings with prospects. Just before the air show, Ray Conner, Boeing's new commercial planes chief, downplayed plans by Airbus to open its first U.S. assembly line. He said airline customers don’t care where planes are built, just the value they offer. (Post)

Airbus said Thursday that it had won orders and commitments for a total of 115 aircraft worth $16.9 billion at this week's Farnborough International Air Show. The orders confirm strong recent demand for revamped versions of its A320 and A330 passenger jets from airlines hungry for more fuel-efficient jets, but far below the record $72.2 billion in orders notched up at the Paris air show last year. The plane maker's tally also lags that of rival Boeing, which has announced orders for 220 jetliners worth $20.6 billion at list prices, mostly for current and new versions of its 737 single-aisle plane. (Post)

Alabama's governor traveled 6,000 miles from Montgomery to Germany then on to London for the Farnborough air show. In the past two days alone, Gov. Robert Bentley met with two dozen companies, conducted a dozen interviews and delivered half as many speeches. The Mobile Press-Register talked to the governor as he started the long trek back home. (Post)

Airbus is looking for suppliers in Boeing's home state, according to a story in the Seattle
. David Williams, vice president of procurement at Airbus Americas, met with
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire to discuss opportunities. The state has 740 aerospace suppliers. (Post)

Speaking of suppliers, Alcoa signed new multiyear agreements valued at about $1.4 billion to supply Airbus with products for virtually all of the passenger-jet maker's commercial programs. Alcoa will supply aluminum and aluminum-lithium wing parts and fuselage panels for Airbus's A320 and A380 jetliners as well as the A350 wide-body jet that is still in development. (Post)

Power systems
Rolls-Royce won a $630 million contract with Brazil-based Synergy Aerospace to provide Trent 700 engines and long-term engine service support for nine Airbus A330s. Of the nine aircraft, six will be passenger jets and three freighters. Rolls-Royce tests airliner engines at its outdoor facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. It's currently constructing a second facility at SSC. (Post)

Germany's second largest airline, airberlin, selected the GEnx-1B engine to power its fleet of 15 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners for which orders are confirmed. GE Aviation’s plant in Batesville, Miss., among other items, makes composite fan platforms and fan cases for GEnx engines. (Post)

Rolls-Royce was selected by Cathay Pacific Airways to provide Trent XWB engines for 10 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. The airline also will convert 16 orders for Airbus A350-900 aircraft to A350-1000s. All 26 aircraft will be powered by the higher-thrust version of the Trent XWB engine. Rolls-Royce also won an order worth $280 million at list prices from Avianca for Trent 700 engines to power four Airbus A330 freighter aircraft, and an order from Garuda Indonesia Airlines for Trent 700 engines to power 11 Airbus A330 aircraft. Rolls-Royce tests airliner engines at its outdoor facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center. It's currently constructing a second facility at SSC. (Post)

Unmanned systems
SELEX Galileo, a Finmeccanica company, has been awarded a contract worth $171 million by Northrop Grumman for NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance program, which uses a Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle platform. SELEX Galileo will be responsible for the fixed mission operational support and transportable general ground station components of the AGS system's ground-based element, and contribute to the telecommunications suite. Northrop Grumman builds the Global Hawk center fuselage in Moss Point, Miss.; SELEX Galileo has an operation in Kiln, Miss., near NASA's Stennis Space Center. (Post)

-- A new training facility for the Navy's Fire Scout unmanned helicopter opened Tuesday at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. New flight simulators were placed in the facility to improve the quality of training, incorporating lessons learned during the MQ-8B Fire Scout's recent land- and sea-based deployments. Typical training lasts about six weeks. Fire Scouts are built in part at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

The first four F-35s manufactured as part of the low rate initial production Lot 3 are now at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., bringing the total F-35s at Eglin to 16. The Department of Defense now has more operational-coded F-35s than test aircraft. A total of nine F-35s have been delivered for the year, giving DoD 30 aircraft – 16 operational and 14 test planes. DOD has eight test aircraft at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and six test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

-- The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin, schoolhouse for the F-35, is ready to graduate its first non-cadre student F-35 pilot. It's Marine Lt. Col. Roger Hardy, the first non-test pilot, non-initial cadre pilot to qualify in the fighter. Meanwhile, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter team has started to test fly the Lockheed Martin-built jet's Block 2A software. The test team has already started to undertake maturity flights for that software in order to release it to the F-35 training unit at Eglin. (Post)

There were two more incidents involving F-22 pilots suffering from hypoxia when they flying an F-22. One incident was in Virginia and the other in Hawaii. Two members of Congress issued a letter of concern to the secretary of the Air Force. The letter also makes reference to a "grounding incident" of an F-22 at Tyndall Air Force Base in May, which the Air Force contends was not a crash. Tyndall is the home of the 325th Fighter Wing, which provide training for F-22 Raptor pilots, maintenance personnel and air battle managers. (Post)

The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is now the Air Force Test Center. The redesignation results from the Air Force Materiel Command's decision to consolidate 12 centers to five. The Air Force Test Center will oversee work at Edwards as well as Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn. The Arnold operation has been redesigned the Arnold Engineering and Development Complex and Eglin’s 96th Air Base Wing will be re-designated the 96th Test Wing on July 18. Missions at each location will continue. (Post) The Air Force Global Logistics Support Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., officially became part of the Air Force Sustainment Center of Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., during a ceremony Wednesday. (Post)

-- The Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala., is getting a new commander. It’s Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum. Mangum replaces Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield. Fort Rucker, near Dothan, Ala., is the primary flight training base for Army aviators. (Post)

-- Col. David Graff is the new vice commander of the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. He became the vice commander June 25. It’s his third tour at Tyndall. Also at Tyndall, Maj. Brady Poe took over as commander of the 325th Maintenance Operations Squadron from Maj. Christopher Cullen during the week. (Post)

-- At Hurlburt Field, Fla., Maj. Ronald Kolodziekczyk became the new commander of the 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron June 25. Earlier in the month, on June 5, Lt. Col. Richard Carrell became commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron. (Post)

-- Two combat medics received Bronze Stars during a ceremony during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. They are Lt. Col. Patrick Brannan and Maj. Richard Barnett, who between them performed more than 1,000 surgeries on wounded service members and nationals in Afghanistan. (Post)

-- About 100 F/A-18 aviators from the USS Harry S Truman are at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., using an outlying field for carrier landing practice while repairs are made to their field in Oceana, Va. They're using Outlying Field Choctaw near Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and will be here through most of July. (Post)

Scott Milroy, a University of Southern Mississippi marine science professor, is starting a year-long project to determine if life is possible on Mars. Milroy will attempt to grow blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, in incubation chambers at Stennis Space Center, Miss., that mimic Mars' surface conditions. (Post)

Logistics Services International, Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded an $11.6 million contract. It provides for the modification of an existing contract to procure UH-60M Black Hawk Maintenance Trainers. Work will be done in Pensacola, Fla., with an estimated completion date of June 28, 2017. … EADS North America Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded a $15.2 million contract. It provides for the modification of an existing contract to procure contractor logistic support. Work will be performed in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2016.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Week in review (7/1 to 7/7)

One of the pleasures of writing a weekly column on aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast region is that there's never a lack of material. Take a look at the daily RSS digest and you'll see what I mean. Airbus' decision to build jetliners in this region may force me to consider doing a column two times a week. Sweet.

The Airbus story was the big deal in this region during the week. But if you've been a long-time reader, you know the aerospace stories from this region run the gamut, from space activities in the western portion of this region to military aviation activities in the eastern portion and now, thanks to Airbus, aircraft manufacturing in the heart of the region.

But don't be misled by that generalization. Space activities are centered around the Stennis-Michoud corridor, but there's a major space radar tracking system at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. And military aviation activities occur across the region, it's just that the heaviest concentration is in Northwest Florida. And assembly and manufacturing operations small and large can be found across the region, and it includes everything from space capsules to avionics equipment.

In any case, be prepared folks. Because the Airbus story is just getting started, you'll be deluged with news briefs about that over the coming months and years. But it won't squeeze out stories about New Orleans' work on NASA's Space Launch System or Stennis Space Center's work testing rocket engines for NASA and commercial companies. And you'll still see plenty about the F-35 training at Eglin Air Force Base and weapons testing there.

The purpose of this column, as well as the news digest, is to give you a better sense of the aerospace activities across the entire region. The local newspapers and television stations do a great job covering aerospace activities in their own back yards, but the purpose of this column and the news feed is to give you a better sense of aerospace in its entirety in this region and to provide the regional context.

That said, here's your week in review:

Boeing couldn't have timed this one better. Without planning it, Airbus' rival - which is none too happy about having its rival on its home turf - came up with some statistics that help show why Airbus decided to build an assembly line in the United States.

Boeing projects a $4.5 trillion market for 34,000 new airplanes over the next 20 years as the current world fleet doubles in size. That's from the Boeing 2012 Current Market Outlook released the day after the Airbus announcement about Mobile.

Boeing's annual forecast reflects the strength of the commercial aviation market. Airline traffic is forecasted to grow at a 5 percent annual rate over the next two decades, with cargo traffic projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.2 percent. The outlook says the single-aisle market will continue its robust growth. Both the Boeing 737 and Airbus’ A320 family compete in that field. (Post)

It's been said before but in light of the Airbus announcement, it needs to be said again. Boeing is a major player in Alabama, notably in Huntsville, and it also has operations in this region in New Orleans and Northwest Florida.

-- No doubt the Airbus decision is a hot topic at the Farnborough International Air Show in London during the week. Mobile Press-Register reporter George Talbot, who is in London for the air show, wrote that about 80 Alabamians, including two dozen from Mobile, are expected to attend the air show. They plan to capitalize on the momentum from the Airbus decision.

For this region, the show gets underway Sunday evening when the Aerospace Alliance, a group that promotes aerospace activities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, hosts a reception at the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall Palace for about 450 people.

Neal Wade, the director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance in Florida, who also heads up the four-state Aerospace Alliance, told Talbot the reception is at capacity and people will have to be turned away. The reception may wind up being one of the most important events for folks from this region. Wade said it will draw many of the top Airbus suppliers. (Post)

-- The announcement early in the week at the Mobile Convention Center sounded like a pep rally and patriotic celebration, with laser light, smoke and music. But that’s the way big companies do it when they make an announcement that’s particularly significant. And having an assembly line for A320s in Mobile is certainly that.

The $600 million plant will eventually make 40 to 50 aircraft a year. The complex at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex, a former Air Force base, will create 3,200 construction jobs and eventually employ 1,000 people. The complex will take up 116 acres of the 1,700-acre Brookley, but the company has already made arrangement for more space should it be needed.

The project will put Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf Coast region in a select club of locations producing narrow-body commercial jets. An airliner plant owned by the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer on to the home turf of its chief rival, Boeing, is likely to change the dynamics of the aerospace industry for years to come. (Post)

-- During the announcement, I asked one Airbus officials where the flight checks will done. Will it be over land, over the Gulf of Mexico or some other location? I asked because I know there's a good deal of flight activity in this region, what with the mix of commercial and private airports, military aviation activities. Nothing firm has been decided yet on that, but the official told me there are plenty of options.

-- Among those congratulating Airbus was Pratt and Whitney. The company, part of United Technologies, provides engines for the A320 family of aircraft: the PW1100G-JM and the V2500 engine made by the International Aero Engines collaboration.

The makeup of the International Aero Engines collaboration has changed. Rolls-Royce late last month sold its equity to Pratt & Whitney, though Rolls-Royce continues to manufacture high-pressure compressors, fan blades and discs as well as the provision of engineering support and final assembly of 50 per cent of V2500 engines.

Other IAE shareholders are Pratt and Whitney Aero Engines International GmbH, Japanese Aero Engines Corp., and MTU Aero Engines GmbH. UT's Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne assembles and tests rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- The H.L. "Sonny" Callahan Airport in Baldwin County may be in good position to benefit from Airbus' decision. For years the airport authority has worked to turn the airport into an economic development engine, including buying 250 acres adjacent to the runway in 2007. The runway itself was expanded a few years earlier to handle commercial or military aircraft. Airport Authority chairman Charles Zunk said the Fairhope airport and the airport in Moss Point, Miss., are both well-positioned to benefit from the Airbus decision. He said Fairhope is qualified for secondary vendors for Airbus. (Post)

-- The assembly line for A320 jetliners in Mobile will mean University of South Alabama's College of Engineering students will have a better chance staying in the area. A partnership between Airbus and USA was already in place prior to the announcement, but the latest news boosts the relationship, meaning more USA engineering graduates could be hired on by Airbus. (Post)

-- All this new stuff with Airbus prompted the reporters of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League to updated the second annual Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-2013. I better know that, since I'm one of the reporters/editors of the League.

The book became available in early June, but the Airbus announcement is so big, two chapters were updated to include details on the Airbus announcement. The book focuses on the considerable aerospace activities in the region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida, including space, pilot training, weapons development and more. It's available as a free PDF or as a printed book at cost. (Post)

he first space-bound Orion spacecraft crew module has been delivered to the Operations
and Checkout Building on NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The crew module structure recently underwent its final friction stir weld at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and was transported to KSC to be readied for its Exploration Flight Test in 2014.

Over the next year and a half the crew module will undergo final assembly, integration and testing at KSC in preparation for the Exploration Flight Test. Additional subsystems will be installed, including propulsion, thermal protection, environmental control, avionics, power, mechanisms, and landing and recovery systems. The EFT-1 flight will be NASA’s first orbital flight test beyond low Earth orbit since the 1960s. (Post)

Alternative fuel
The 40th Flight Test Squadron made history at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., June 28 flying the first aircraft to use a new fuel blend derived from alcohol. The fuel, known as ATJ (Alcohol-to-Jet) is the third alternative fuel to be evaluated by the Air Force for fleet-wide use as a replacement for standard petroleum-derived JP-8 aviation fuel. The A-10 flew without any issues.

ATJ is a cellulousic-based fuel that can be derived using wood, paper, grass, anything that is a cell-based material. The sugars extracted from these materials are fermented into alcohols, which are then hydro-processed into the aviation-grade kerosenes used for aviation fuel. (Post)

Contract: Textron Inc., New Orleans, La., was awarded a $212.7 million contract for the detail design and construction of a ship to shore connector test and training craft and technical manuals. The SSC program is the functional replacement for the existing fleet of landing craft, air cushion vehicles, which are nearing the end of their service life. (Post)

Shrimp: NOAA scientists predict an above-average season for the commercial harvest of brown shrimp in the western Gulf. They estimate the harvest in the western Gulf will be 59.2 million pounds, above the historical 50-year average of 56.5 million pounds. (Post)

BAE: BAE Systems in Mobile, Ala., has picked up a contract from Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., to build two dump scows, a project expected to add about 125 workers to the company's Mobile shipyard. (Post)