Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week in review (8/12 to 8/18)

Gulf Coast aerospace junkies had plenty of news of interest to them during the week, including word about the first customer for Airbus Mobile A320s; an increase in F-35 activity at Eglin and a program to create a bunker-buster for the aircraft; the interest being shown in an indoor unmanned systems facility; the crash of a NASA lander during a test and more.

Here's the week in review:

What airline will be the first to get an A320 rolling off the assembly in Mobile, Ala.? According to Flightglobal, Virgin America will take delivery of an A320neo from Mobile during the first quarter of 2016. The low-cost carrier has 30 of the type on order.

Airbus said in July that it's establishing a seven-building, 116-acre assembly line at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex, the first assembly line for Airbus in the United States. It will create more than 3,000 construction jobs and when it's finished, about 1,000 people will work there. (Post)

Anything involving the A320 will be of interest to this region from here on out. There was an item during the week about Hong Kong Airlines and its interest in the A320 and A330. That company had planned to buy 10 of Airbus' A380 aircraft for long-haul trips to London.

But according to the Financial Times, the six-year-old airline canceled its all-business class service to London following losses on the long-haul route. The carrier, a unit of China's Hainan Airlines, plans to adopt a more cautious approach to launching any long-haul service. (Post)

While on the subject of Airbus, keep an eye on the rift between Airbus and a Seattle company, Aviation Partners, over those upturned tips at the end of the wing. The winglet or a sharklet improves fuel efficiency. Aviation Partners wants an injunction to prevent Airbus from selling A320s with sharklets. Airbus claims it came up with the design on its own. (Flightglobal story; News Tribune story)

Aviation Partners also has a joint venture with Boeing, called Aviation Partners Boeing. That operation just landed its biggest order ever, 40 winglets for 737s operated by China Southern Airlines, according to several reports. (Story)

OK, we're on a roll now talking about corporations. Here's an item about two companies of interest to this region. United Technologies will start taking bids soon on some Goodrich assets it has to sell. That was a condition for winning regulatory approval of its takeover of Goodrich.

UT closed its largest-ever acquisition last month, but has to sell assets like Goodrich's power generation and small-engine control units. Those assets could earn more than $500 million.

UT is swapping some operations in this region. It owned Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which has an operation at Stennis Space Center, Miss., but Rocketdyne is being sold to GenCorp., the folks who also own Aerojet. But now UT owns the Goodrich Alabama Service Center in Foley, which is becoming part of UT Aerospace Systems. (Post)

What weekly column would be complete without something about the F-35? As you know, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the training center where aviators from all U.S. military branches as well as foreign nations will be trained to fly and maintain the stealthy aircraft. Eglin has nine F-35As, nine U.S. F-35Bs and one UK F-35B.

Word has it, flight training on the F-35 continues to accelerate at the 33rd Fighter Wing. Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, commander of the wing's 58th Fighter Squadron, told Flightglobal that in the first week of flying in March there were two flights scheduled. In August the number is 16 F-35 sorties a week and in September it will be 21. (Post)

Kloos flew the 100th sortie of the F-35A variant at the base during the week. The 90-miunute flight took him over southern Alabama, Tyndall Air Force Base on the east end of the Florida Panhandle and Destin before he returned to Eglin. Taking off just after Kloos was Col. Andrew Toth, who piloted another F-35 during the sortie. (Post)

Here's another F-35-related item, this one involving its weaponry.

Boeing won a $1.4 million contract earlier this month to help the Air Force design a rocket-propelled bomb for the F-35 that can destroy deeply buried enemy targets. The program is the High Velocity Penetrating Weapon, which aims develop a 2,000-pound bomb with the punch of a 5,000-pound gravity bomb.

Boeing joins a list of defense contractors working on the program, including Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md.; MBDA Missile Systems of Paris and Raytheon of Waltham, Mass. Boeing also is working on a separate bunker-busting munitions program called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a program managed by Eglin. (Post)

The High Velocity Penetrating Weapon will be the focus of a meeting slated for October at Eglin Air Force Base. Military weapons experts will brief industry on the progress and future needs of that program, as well as future needs for guidance, navigation and control, propusion and explosives. (Post)

Unmanned systems
I've got to hand it to the economic development folks in Okaloosa County, Fla. They understand the import role unmanned systems will play in the future. Regular readers know plans are in the works for a 45,000-square-foot Autonomous Vehicle Center not far from Eglin Air Force Base.

The joint venture is between the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council and the University of Florida. Plans are to build the facility at UF's Research and Engineering Education Facility. And it won't be just for the aerial variant of robotic vehicles. Ground vehicle developers are welcome as well.

The Northwest Florida Daily News had an item during the week where Larry Sassano, president of the EDC, said he went to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's show in Las Vegas and met with some two dozen companies developing air and ground systems. He didn't name names, but told the paper there's already interest in leasing space at the still-to-be-built facility. (Post)

This region already has a foot in the door when it comes to the UAV field. Northrop Grumman Fire Scout and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and UAVs are used by the military in training across the region.

The marine variants are also a big factor in this region. The Navy folks at Stennis Space Center, Miss., operate a fleet of underwater robots, and the Navy at Panama City, Fla., is also heavily involved in underwater and surface robotic systems.

A small NASA lander being tested for missions to the moon and other destinations beyond Earth crashed and burned after veering off course during a trial run at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., last week. Morpheus crashed near the runway formerly used by NASA's space shuttles.

Designed and built by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Morpheus made several flights attached to a crane before the ill-fated free-flight. The engines appeared to ignite as planned, but a few seconds later Morpheus rolled on its side and fell. The engine that powers the lander was tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The State Bond Commission in Louisiana during the week approved a request by officials of New Orleans International Airport to refinance existing bonds for additional parking. The panel approved the proposal to issue up to $40 million in bonds to refinance existing ones at a lower rate for an additional five years. (Post)

Lt. Col. Bruce Bunce assumed command of the 81st Range Control Squadron Aug. 10 from Lt. Col. Ryan Frederick at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Frederick will be assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Post)

EADS-NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $19.8 million contract to provide for the modification of an existing contract to procure contractor logistic support for the UH-72A program. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012. (Post)

Jobs: Austal USA will add up to 1,000 new jobs in the wake of a new five-year, $5 million deal with Alabama. Once the overall expansion is completed, total employment at the Mobile complex is expected to reach about 4,600 people. (Post)

Workforce training: In Pascgoula, Miss., 295 students graduated from Huntington Ingalls Apprentice School. Ingalls apprentice program provides two-to-four year curriculums for students interested in shipbuilding careers. (Post) In Mobile, Ala., 15 people graduated from Austal USA's four-year apprenticeship program. Graduates consisted of six electrical journeymen, four pipe-fitting journeymen, and five fabrication journeymen. (Post)

Unmanned anti-sub: Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., was awarded a $58.5 million contract in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel Program. The contractor proposed a trimaran platform. Long Beach, Miss., will perform 13.4 percent of the work. Other work sites are in Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, California, Florida and Virginia. (Post)

Testing: The Underwater Breathing Apparatus performed at a "world class" level when the improved deep sea breathing device was tested at extreme depths, according to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (Fla.) Division. It's called the MK 16 MOD 1 UBA, and it looks like a regular diving suit. (Post)

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $7.2 million modification to previously awarded contract for research, development, test, and technical services in support of DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer. Work will be done in Pascagoula (80 percent), and Gulfport, Miss. (20 percent), and is expected to complete by September 2013. (Post)

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