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.