A fly-over of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, milestones for the F-35, an encouraging projection by Airbus that's likely to bode well for Mobile, Ala., changes at Tyndall Air Force Base, and an upcoming aerospace summit in New Orleans were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.
Here's your week in review:
The four-state Aerospace Alliance is holding its second annual summit Oct. 25-26 in New Orleans at the Marriott Convention Center, and this one is bound to be of high interest. This year's summit will include sessions on opportunities in unmanned aerial vehicles and commercial space. But no doubt one of the biggest topics will be Airbus' decision to build airliners in Mobile, Ala.
Plans are still being firmed up, but those interested can already register.
The inaugural fall summit last year was held at Sandestin Beach Resort, Fla., and was attended by a variety of aerospace companies, economic development officials and business leaders from the four states. By any measure it was successful.
The Aerospace Alliance was formed more than three years ago by the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida's Great Northwest. The entire state of Florida didn't join until after last year's summit. As a matter of fact, it was formally announced at the event. (Post)
The four states have multiple aerospace clusters. In addition to the Interstate 10 region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida -- the only one involving all four states -- there's also the world-renown Huntsville-Decatur aerospace region in north Alabama, the Golden Triangle in east-central Mississippi, Florida's Space Coast and more.
One of the most high profile aerospace developments in the I-10 region was, of course, the announcement in July that Airbus will build a $600 million A320 assembly complex at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. The company said it needs the plant to meet global demand.
Almost as if to affirm that, late in the week Reuters reported that AirAsia is close to a deal to buy up to 100 of the popular A320 family of airliners. The demand from Asian low-cost carriers is helping to drive production of both Airbus and Boeing jets. (Post)
Last year during the Sandestin summit, well before the Airbus decision to build a plant in Mobile, aerospace executives were saying demand was going up, and would likely continue. They pointed out that this region needs to get ready by preparing the workforce.
Now Airbus has increased its 20-year production forecast by 5 percent. The company's latest Global Market Forecast cites a need for some 28,200 passenger and freighter aircraft of 100 seats or more between 2012 and 2031. Of those, more than 27,350 will be passenger aircraft.
Passenger traffic will grow at an average annual rate of 4.7 percent in the next 20 years. By 2031 the world's passenger fleet will have expanded by 110 percent to over 32,550, according to the forecast. (Post)
With Airbus revising its forecast upward, the Mobile Press-Register asked local and regional economic development leaders what it might mean for Mobile. Not surprisingly, the consensus was positive, not only for Mobile but the surrounding region. (Post)
-- The Airbus seven-building, 116-acre complex is likely to play a role in how the University of South Alabama Foundation develops its 300 acres at Brookley Aeroplex. Director Maxey Roberts told the Press-Register the foundation wants to talk with stakeholders, the city of Mobile and Mobile Airport Authority for input on how to develop the property. (Post)
If you have the long-term in mind, you'll want to pay attention to activities at Brookley. There's every reason to believe that former Air Force base will develop as a gateway into this region, with Airbus likely to use it as a showcase. A good read that puts that in focus was a column done by a Press-Register reporter after the Farnborough Air Show. (Post)
Talk about showcase, to the east of Mobile at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base, the establishment of a training center for the F-35 will bring international attention on that part of the I-10 aerospace corridor for years to come. Make no mistake; the F-35 training complex is a high-tech campus that will bring in foreign pilots and maintainers for years. They will be able to form bonds with this region. Many of those folks will eventually end up as movers and shakers in the aerospace industry in their country.
Impress them now and additional rewards will come down the road.
The formal training program will move a step closer Monday when Air Force officials begin the F-35A Operational Utility Evaluation. The review is expected to last about 65 days. In the evaluation data will be collected from all facets of F-35 training, including maintenance, classroom, simulator and flights.
That's all a precursor for the Air Force to begin training other services as well as United States allies who have been involved with the multi-national F-35 program from the start. Initially, 59 aircraft and three flying squadrons, one for each service/aircraft variant, will be established at Eglin. (Post)
-- In another F-35 development, the "B" variant, the short take-off and vertical landing version, completed a series of engine air start tests, which involve shutting down and restarting the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan in flight.
Aircraft BF-2 successfully completed a series of 27 air starts at various altitudes and using various methods on Aug. 15 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., according to the Naval Air Systems Command. Air start testing is required for the F-35B to undertake high angle-of-attack trials next year. The Air Force's F-35A variant had earlier completed its air start testing at Edwards AFB. (Post)
Going further to the east along the I-10 corridor, changes are afoot at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The 325th Fighter Wing marks the transition to Air Combat Command from Air Education and Training Command Oct. 1, a move that adds additional personnel and aircraft.
The 44th Fighter Group, Detachment 2 from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., will be added to Team Tyndall. It's a Reserve unit and scheduled to operate as a support function to the new combat-coded F-22 Raptor squadron standing up in early 2013. About 250 members will comprise the 44th FG and reside in and around Tyndall. Reserve personnel assigned to the 44th FG specifically, are nearly 25 percent full-time. (Post)
-- While on the subject of change, the Air Force said Brig. Gen. John K. McMullen will be leaving as commander of Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing. McMullen will be reassigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as the deputy chief of staff operations for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Headquarters Allied Air Command. The Panama City News Herald reports that no timetable has been set. (Post)
-- A project to build a new addition and repair the F-22 Raptor parts storage facility at Tyndall is scheduled for completion March 2013. GCC Enterprises Inc., of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded the $1 million contract in September 2011 and began work in April 2012.
The 3,000-square-foot vault is designated for securing F-22 parts and 800 square foot weapons vault expansion, said the project manager. The new vault construction has been completed and the expansion on the weapons vault is scheduled to begin within the week. The change from AETC to ACC requires adding additional support facilities, aircraft and personnel to the installation. (Post)
-- The 325th Air Control Squadron is scheduled to be the only squadron within the 325th Fighter Wing to remain under Air Education and Training Command. That's because it’s an initial skills training course. The squadron will become the 337th Air Control Squadron two days after the 325th FW transitions to the ACC. (Post)
Radio Australia reported during the week that the country is resurrecting plans to buy seven Northrop Grumman maritime surveillance spy drones. The country first considered buying 12 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft in 2004, but in 2009 the plan was canceled. The next year three were considered, and the latest plan calls for seven of the Triton models. Global Hawks in all variants are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)
-- Ground has been broken at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., for the Navy's training facility for the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned system. It's the only Navy training center for the Navy's Triton. It also will house a new P-8A maintenance training facility. (Story)
Jacksonville is also home of the training facility for the Navy's Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. It opened in July. Typical training lasts about six weeks. Fire Scouts are also built in part at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point. (Post)
Get ready for a site you won't see again.
Space Shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA's modified 747, will leave Sept. 17 from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for its final ferry flight, this one to Los Angeles. Plans are for low-level fly-overs at multiple locations, including Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
SSC is where all the shuttle main engines were tested and Michoud is where all the external tanks were built. The 747 will fly at about 1,500 feet at each location, depending upon conditions. Stops are also scheduled along the way before it lands in Los Angeles. (Post)
-- The heat shield around the Space Launch System RS-25 engines will not be the same as the Space Shuttle Program. The decision was made to move to a lighter, more flexible blanket, similar to the ones used on other vehicles and on the aft skirt of the Solid Rocket Boosters.
The new blanket design will save about 700 pounds and will be easier to produce, assemble and install. The design change will debut during the test firings at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in what’s known as a "green run" test. (Post)
Composite Engineering Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was awarded a $7.3 million contract to procure 54 peculiar repairable spares for the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target BQM-167. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)
Contract: Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., parent company of VT Halter Marine, said its marine unit has won $143 million worth of shipbuilding and repair contracts. The contracts include two offshore support vessels for Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc., to be built by VT Halter Marine in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)
Authentication: The keel of the Coast Guard National Security Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) was authenticated during the week at the company's Ingalls Shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)