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)