Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week in review (8/19 to 8/25)

A report about high foreign interest in locating in the United States; Dothan taking steps to protect Fort Rucker; four counties with Air Force Special Operations bases teaming up as sister counties; a hotel on Air Force property inching forward; Marines getting ready to train on F-35Bs; and complaints that the FAA has missed a deadline in establish UAV test sites all were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast during the week. And of course, there's also the threat of a hurricane coming this week.

Here's your week in review:

Aviation Week had an item this week about overseas companies increasingly eyeing operations in the United States. It says the aerospace industry is playing a huge role in the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing. It mentions Belgium's Asco opting to build a plant in Stillwater, Okla., Brazil's Embreaer building jets in Melbourne, Fla., and Airbus' plans for an assembly line in Mobile, Ala. It also touched on Airbus' decision to double its purchases from U.S. suppliers. (Story)

Aviation Week also released during the week its 16th Annual Workforce Study, which analyzes current aerospace and defense workforce issues, trends and opportunities. The study notes that A&D manufacturing has been the strong point of the American economy for the past four years, with companies hiring machinists, operators and skilled craftsmen for U.S. facilities.

Many of the 12,000 who will be hired in the next three years will be in the air transport manufacturing cluster in the Southeast, a region that appeals to employers due to its lack of labor unions and abundance of state incentives. The study says companies have landed new manufacturing facilities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. (Post)

But the worry remains about finding enough qualified employees. Thirty percent of respondents to the survey say manufacturing shortages are hindering their ability to grow. That issue was raised last year during the Aerospace Summit in Sandestin, Fla. (Post) Company officials who attended, pointing to an increase in work, said the region needed to prepare the workforce.

-- The Mobile Press-Register also took on a workforce issue during the week. It posed the question, can a top-tier aerospace company co-exist with existing mid-wage companies in the same industry? That question came up after Airbus announced it is building an A320 assembly line in Mobile, which is also home to several smaller aerospace companies. At least one of those companies is looking to expand into Pensacola because of concerns about keeping workers with a new kid on the block. (Post)

Dothan, Ala., will join other cities in southeast Alabama to pay for a consultant to protect Fort Rucker in a future base closure round. The thinking is to take the offense on the next base closing round in order to capture additional missions. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission determines how to realign military resources. In the last round Fort Rucker lost jobs to Huntsville, Ala. Fort Rucker is the primary training base for Army aviation. (Post)

-- Two counties in Florida and two in New Mexico that host Air Force Special Operation Command bases are now sister counties. Civic leaders from Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties in Florida and Curry and Roosevelt counties near Cannon Air Force Base, N. M., said the intent is to open lines of communication on key issues that affect the AFSOC communities. (Post)

-- The Tri-County Small Area Studies is being discussed at public meetings in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. The study, a joint venture of three counties and Eglin Air Force Base commissioned in 2011, deals with encroachment issues affecting Northwest Florida's bases. The idea behind the study is to balance the needs of the military mission with civilian development. (Post)

-- Speaking of land use, a plan to build a Fort Walton Beach hotel on Air Force property is inching forward. Okaloosa County approved a development order for the privately managed Emerald Breeze Resort, which will be built on Gulf front property owned by Eglin. Building permits will be withheld until a lease agreement is finalized. (Post)

-- There will be a building dedication next week in memory of Tech Sgt. Daniel Douville, an airman assigned to the 96th Explosives Ordnance Disposal Flight. He was killed while on this third deployment June 26, 2011, from injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device on the border of the Nad 'Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Post)

-- While on the subject of honoring heroes, the 30-foot tall Marine Aviation Memorial Tower is now standing at its new home at Veterans Memorial Park in Pensacola, Fla. The bell tower was dedicated at a ceremony last weekend. The company that built it hopes to build 100 similar towers and place them nationwide. (Post)

In Huntsville, Ala., Marshall Space Flight Center engineers and engineers at Langley
Research Center in Hampton, Va., are using wind tunnel tests to enhance NASA's Space
Launch System that will carry astronauts into deep space aboard the Orion spacecraft. The SLS engines are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and the core stage of SLS and Orion are built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

-- The Air Force Space Command will begin operational use of a Boeing satellite built to monitor space debris. The Space Based Surveillance Satellite was launched nearly two years ago, but it took that long to fix a problem with onboard electronics. This is of interest to the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which tracks space debris with the world's most powerful radar. (Post)

-- A ship that was a player in the space program will now serve the Merchant Marines. The recovery ship M/V Liberty Star is being transferred from NASA to the National Defense Reserve Fleet for use in training at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. The ship retrieved space shuttle boosters and more recently fetched Orion crew capsules. Liberty Star and its sister ship, Freedom Star, have been regular visitors to the Gulf Coast. Shuttle external tanks built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans were placed on barges and towed to Kennedy Space Center by those ships. (Post)

Marine pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will soon begin training flights in F-35B jets. That's the variant of the plane that can take off and land vertically, according to unidentified sources cited by Reuters. Test pilots began preliminary orientation flights of the F-35B at the air base in May and have completed nearly 200 limited flights, none involving vertical landings. (Post)

Unmanned systems
With the FAA under pressure to allow unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is complaining that the FAA has already missed an Aug. 12. That was when it was to designate six test ranges where standards can be developed. In May the FAA said it was making progress in its site selection process and expects to name the sites in December. The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in UAVs, including production and training, and efforts are under way to build an indoor unmanned systems center near Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)

Coastal Helicopter Inc., Panama City, Fla., was awarded a $9 million contract for aircraft flight test support of programs such as the Advanced Littoral Reconnaissance Technologies, Office of Naval Research. Work will be done in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. (70 percent) and Panama City, Fla. (30 percent), and is expected to be completed by August 2017. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $81.8 million contract for Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammers. Work is to be completed by Aug. 31, 2014. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBJM of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

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