Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week in review (10/21 to 10/27)

Soothing words from a general about Eglin, a report about encroachment, an award for Keesler, a command change, two more F-35s at Eglin and a weapons test were among the aerospace activities for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Consolidation of Air Force Materiel Command from 12 to five centers was not designed to pave the way for moving Eglin Air Force Base’s research, development, test and evaluation function to Edwards AFB, Calif. Brig. Gen. Arnold Bunch, director of Edwards’ Air Force Test Center, told the Florida Defense Support Task Force at a meeting during the week that he's striving to keep Eglin's RDT&E function viable.

Since the reorganization was announced late last year, leaders in Northwest Florida have been concerned about the fate of Eglin's multimillion-dollar RDT&E function. The consolidation was carried out in July.

The task force was created in 2010 to protect Florida's 20 bases. (Post)

-- Santa Rosa County during the week got the final version of the Eglin Air Force Base Small Area Studies report on encroachment. It recommends Santa Rosa amend land development code and enact 35- to 50-foot height restrictions, depending on the location in the proposed Eglin Military Airport Zone. Officials also should identify land uses that would be compatible with the base’s mission and reduce the maximum allowable density of developments. (Post)

-- While on the subject of Gulf Coast bases, for the second year in a row, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., won the highest command-level honor it can receive. The 81st Training Wing, which runs Keelser, won the Air Education and Training Command’s Commander-In-Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. Keesler is AETC's nomineee because of the base's exemplary support of Defense Department missions. (Post)

-- At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Lt. Col. Joseph P. Kendall has assumed command of the 53rd Test Support Squadron. He replaced Lt. Col. James A. Sukenik, who is now the deputy commander of the 53rd Weapons and Evaluation Group. (Post)

-- An air traffic control tower at Florida's Destin Airport is inching forward. A tower would allow for simultaneous launches of planes at Destin and the Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base. Right now planes at Destin must wait while traffic clears at the Eglin airport. The county commission still has to vote to proceed, and an environmental assessment will have to be done. (Post)

Two more F-35s arrived during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, home of the F-35 training center. One was a United Kingdom F-35, the second UK jet now at the base. The other was the 11th Marine Corps F-35. They took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base for the 90-minute flight. (Post)

Meanwhile, out in California, an F-35 test aircraft completed the first aerial weapons release of an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. Aircraft AF-1 jettisoned the instrumented AIM-120 over the China Lake test range from an internal weapons bay. It was the second in-flight weapons release in three days for AF-1. Earlier it released a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition. (Post)

Spatial disorientation. That's what an investigative board concluded caused a February plane crash in Africa that killed four Hurlburt Field, Fla., airmen. Capt. Ryan P. Hall, Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten died when their U-28A troop support aircraft crashed near Djibouti. Spatial disorientation is the failure to correctly sense the position, motion or attitude of the aircraft in relation to the ground. (Post)

-- An active-duty Hurlburt airman who was found dead last weekend after a boating accident in Okaloosa County was identified as Airman 1st Class Colby Siegel, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The cause of the accident is under investigation. (Post)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a
$34.7 million contract for acquisition of aircraft maintenance support services for T-1A, T-6A, T-38C SUPT and T-38C IFF. The location of the performance is Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week in review (10/14 to 10/20)

The Air Armament Conference was held during the week at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, near Eglin Air Force Base. Lt. Gen. Charles R. Davis with the Pentagon's acquisition office told contractors the Air Force will have to trim back its wish list of weapons because funding will be consumed by a handful of programs whose costs keep rising.

According to National Defense magazine, Davis showed contractors a list of 10 acquisition programs that alone will eat up $20 billion of the $30 billion weapons procurement budget. There are simply too many programs in the Air Force budget and not enough money to pay for them, he said. Program reviews have to be "more aggressive" upfront to prevent too many programs under contract with a budget that can't support them, Davis said.

-- While on the topic of summits and conferences, the Aerospace Alliance is holding its fall summit Thursday and Friday in New Orleans. This is the second annual conference hosted by the organization that represents Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. You can register by clicking this link.

At Stennis Space Center, Miss., Blue Origin successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 rocket engine. The engines are designed eventually to launch the Space Vehicle the company is developing. The test took place early this month on the E-1 test stand. Blue Origin is one of the companies involved in developing commercial space transportation systems. (Post)

An F-35 dropped a 2,000-pound bomb during testing at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., during the week. It was a key milestone for the jet. Lockheed Martin is building versions for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, as well as foreign buyers. The Air Force version is designed to carry 18,000 pounds of munitions using 10 weapons stations. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- The squadron of F-22s scheduled to move to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., early next year could take up to 18 months to arrive. Arlin Ponder of the 49th Wing public affairs office at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico confirmed Air Force officials have discussed an 18-month window. Budget constraints have delayed the move. (Post)

French aerospace company Safran said it will buy the electrical power systems activities of parts maker Goodrich for some $401 million. The acquisition comes less than three months after Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies completed its $16.5 billion purchase of Goodrich Corp. Some 750 workers in Foley, Ala., make and repair engine nacelles and are not impacted by that acquisition. (Post)

-- ITT Exelis opened its mine defense production facility during the week in West Bay, near Panama City, Fla. Exelis mine-clearing systems are towed by helicopters or minesweepers or operated remotely. The Exelis mine defense business moved from New York to Panama City in 2005 and now operates out of a 105,000 square-foot building at VentureCrosings, near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. (Post)

Training fatality
An officer assigned to the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was killed during an accident Oct. 11 while training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Maj. Garrett Knowlan died while participating in Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training. Knowlan was the executive officer for Brig. Gen. David Harris, 96th Test Wing commander. (Post)

Christening: The Navy christened the amphibious assault ship, America (LHA 6), Saturday in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship, first of the America-class amphibious assault ships, will be delivered in 2013.

Keel: Austal USA during the week hosted the traditional keel-laying ceremony for the USS Jackson (LCS 6) in Mobile, Ala. Austal officials said 25 percent of the ship has been completed and it is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2014. (Post)

Center: Mississippi State University opened its $9 million science and technology center during the week at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The center will be home of the Northern Gulf Institute, MSU’s Geosystems Research Institute, NOAA's National Coastal Data Development Center and an engineering branch of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. (Post)

VT Halter: VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss., is teaming with DCNS of Paris to bid on a contract to build a U.S. Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutter. VT Halter would be the prime contractor and DCNS would be its exclusive subcontractor. (Post)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week in review (10/7 to 10/13)

A failed merger, jobs at a new GE Aviation plant, a new commander at Tyndall Air Force Base, plans for an upcoming industry day, a step forward in developing an unmanned tanker and a space-age exoskeleton that could help paraplegics were among the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor during the week.

Here's your week in review:

The proposed $45 billion merger between EADS and BAE Systems, which would have created the world's largest defense and aviation merger, won't happen. At least not for now. Reports indicated the interests of French, British and German governments could not be reconciled.

It would have merged commercial powerhouse EADS, owner of Airbus, with BAE Systems, a major defense company, putting the combined company on a par with U.S. aerospace-defense powerhouse Boeing. EADS, BAE Systems and Boeing all have multiple activities in the Gulf Coast region. (Post)

Right now there's a lot of finger-pointing, with Germany considered the primary reason the deal fell through. Analysts said Germany feared being sidelined in the deal. The issue was complicated by the stakes of France and Germany in EADS and the British government's involvement in BAE Systems.

A particularly good, in-depth piece about how the deal came about and what happened can be found in the Oct. 12 issue of Financial Times.

How much that deal will still be discussed next month during the Aviation Forum 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, is yet to be seen. The Mobile Press-Register had a story about the forum in this weekend’s paper, and said that Mobile and the Airbus supplier chain will be a focus of the forum. (Story)

Much closer to home, the Aerospace Alliance is getting ready for its fall summit Oct. 25-26 in New Orleans. According to the agenda, national political commentator Alex Castellanos will talk about the upcoming elections and former CIA Director Porter Goss will be keynote speaker on Friday. Other panelists include recently announced Marshall Space Flight Center Director Patrick Scheuermann and Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope.

You can register by clicking this link.

The list of sponsors is pretty impressive and includes aerospace companies EADS, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet, GE Aviation, L-3 and Pioneer Aerospace. You can find all the sponsors at the registeration link above.

GE Aviation will begin taking applications next month for its new composites parts factory near Hattiesburg, Miss. The announcement was made Thursday when Gov. Phil Bryant visited the nearly completed plant. The company expects to hire 250 workers within five years to make composite parts for aircraft engines and systems. GE Aviation is investing $56 million in the 340,000 square-foot Ellisville plant to meet growing aerospace demand. (Post)

A new robotic space technology spinoff derived from NASA's Robonaut 2 project may help astronauts stay healthier in space and aid paraplegics on Earth. Robonaut 2, the first
humanoid robot in space, currently is working with astronauts aboard the International
Space Station.

NASA and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a 57-pound robotic exoskeleton called X1. In short, it's a wearable robot.

The robot can either assist or inhibit movement in leg joints. In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.

The X-1 is still in the research and development phase. (Post)

-- NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will host a Space Launch System Industry Day at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Oct. 24. The event will begin with registration at 7:00 a.m., and adjourn at 2:00 p.m. to be followed by a tour of MAF.

There will be another tour of the Stennis Space Center, Miss., some 30 miles away, on the morning of Oct. 25. Those in attendance will be provided SLS Program updates, and will be afforded an opportunity to network with SLS prime contractors, NASA and Huntsville, Ala.'s, MSFC procurement and technical personnel, and representatives from federal and state organizations throughout the day. (Post)

A series of flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., were recently completed to demonstrate the ability of two unmanned aircraft to refuel in flight. The tests, which did not involve any fuel transfer, were conducted by Northrop Grumman, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA using two NASA Global Hawks, one configured as a tanker and the other as a receiver.

Among other things, the tests show the tanker could extend and retract its refueling hose, and the two Global Hawks were able to fly as close as 30 feet. The $33 million DARPA program aims to demonstrate autonomous fuel transfer between two Global Hawks, enabling flights of up to one week endurance.

Northrop Grumman is also developing the technology to help extend the operating range and flight duration of future carrier-based unmanned systems like the X-47B unmanned demonstrator aircraft. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Col. David E. Graff will be the next 325th Fighter Wing commander at Tyndall Air Force Base. He'll replaces Brig. Gen. John K. McMullen in a Nov. 14 change of command. McMullen will move on to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he'll be deputy chief of staff, Operations, Allied Air Command. Graff will lead more than 4,000 personnel who train and prepare F-22 pilots, intelligence officers, maintainers, and other support specialties. (Post)

-- At Tyndall, Matthew LaCourse, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron pilot and controller, recently reached 2,000 flying hours flying the F-4 Phantom. LaCourse spent 22 years in the Air Force and retired in 2000. He eventually got a job with Lockheed Martin flying an E-9. Through attrition he ended up in an F-4. The 82nd ATRS does weapons evaluation testing for Air Combat Command, the Defense Department and foreign military programs. (Post)

-- A team put together to test improvements for the F-15 Eagle marks 10 years during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-15 Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force is composed of personnel from the 53rd Wing and 96th Test Wing. They test F-15 software upgrades to enhance air-to-air and air-to-ground combat performance, improve weapons-avionics integration and simplify aircrew displays and controls. (Post)

Walton County will spend $750,000 less next year for advertising flights after Southwest Airlines broke an agreement on flights. Walton County has been using more than $1 million annually in bed tax collections to subsidize Southwest after the company agreed to fly to and from Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in 2009. In exchange, Southwest agreed to provide direct flights from four destinations daily. In January the company will cut back and cease flights to and from Orlando. (Post)

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $10 million contract to provide systems studies, analyses integrations and demonstrations with the unmanned aerial system termed dominator and common smart sub-munition to assess the capabilities of the system in meeting Air Force Research Laboratory requirements. The contracting activity is AFRL/RWK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $28.6 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to provide additional funds for long lead-time parts, material and components required to protect the delivery schedule of four Low Rate Initial Production Lot VII F-35 Conventional Takeoff and Landing aircraft for Italy. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center.

Zumwalt: Ingalls Shipbuilding has delivered to the Navy the composite deckhouse for the Zumwalt-class destroyer, DDG 1000. Ingalls is building the composite deckhouse and hangar for the DDG 1000 class at the company's Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week in review (9/30 to 10/6)

When someone told me they read that the Interstate 10 aerospace corridor is the fourth largest in the world, I told them that's not true. It's big, but not that big. When they said it came from a book I co-authored, I knew I had to track it down.

The book, Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-2013, makes no such claim. But now I see what happened. A reporter got information from the Aerospace Alliance, a four-state group that includes all of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Aerospace Alliance, is, in fact, an underwriter for the book, but had no involvement in its creation.

But it does involve itself in information for the four-state region, and provided some of that to the reporter. The reporter assumed those stats were for the I-10 corridor – the slice of the four states between New Orleans and Panama City covered by the book. In fact, they were for the combined force of four-state region, which includes aerospace powerhouses like Huntsville-Decatur and Florida’s Space Coast.

Those statistics are impressive. According to the Aerospace Alliance, direct aerospace and defense employment in 2010 for the four states was 102,674. The only two regions with more are California (162,162) and Toulouse, France (120,000). For aerospace and defense total revenue, again 2010, the four states of the Aerospace Alliance had a combined $31.8 billion. California had $52.3 billion and Washington $32.8 billion.

So yes, we have a lot of aerospace activity in the Gulf Coast region, from space activities at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to weapons development in Northwest Florida. And the region will get a big boost when Airbus starts building its A320 in Mobile. But don't confuse this aerospace cluster with the broader four-state region. We're a part, not the whole thing.

By the way, if you want to download a free copy of the book, click here.

OK, now for your week in review:

All the indicators continue to point to a robust commercial airline market. The latest indicator was released Boeing during the week at the International Air Cargo Forum and Exhibition 2012 in Atlanta.

The biennial Boeing World Are Cargo Forecast 2012/2013 said the global air cargo market will expand at a 5.2 percent annual rate over the next 20 years. The report said growth will be driven by world gross domestic product that will nearly double over the forecast period.

Boeing forecasts the world freighter fleet will increase to 3,198 airplanes from 1,738 by 2031. Large freighters will represent 36 percent of the fleet, compared to 31 percent today. Markets connecting Asia-Pacific will lead the industry in growth. Boeing competitor Airbus plans to assemble A320 aircraft in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

-- The proposed $45 billion merger of Airbus parent EADS and BAE Systems is being closely watched by the aerospace industry. The deadline to make a decision is Oct. 10, and talks involving the companies and governments are continuing.

France and Germany are at odds over the location of the headquarters for the new  aerospace giant. France wants the headquarters in Toulouse, its southwestern  aerospace capital where the Airbus subsidiary of EADS is based. Germany wants it near Munich. It’s just another hurdle to overcome. (Post)

Both companies are major players in the Gulf Coast Interstate 10 region.

-- OK, this is kind of an Airbus-related story. Beginning April 9 of next year, United Airlines will add one daily round-trip flight between Mobile, Ala., and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, providing direct connectivity to 139 domestic and international markets. In addition, the new United Express flight will use the 50-seat Embracer Regional Jet.

Bill Sisson, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said the new flight is a clear example of air service development following economic development, like Airbus’ decision to build an assembly line in Mobile. (Post)

Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is now part of Air Combat Command. The ceremony that folded the 325th Fighter Wing into the Air Combat Command (ACC) became official Monday.

The new F-22 fighter squadron will slowly be arriving at Tyndall beginning in January. The pilot training mission at Tyndall will remain, but there will be about 800-1,000 new people coming to work at Tyndall as the new F-22 squadron is put in place. (Post)

As part of the change, the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., took command of Tyndall’s 337th Air Control Squadron, formerly the 325th Air Control Squadron. Because the 337th ACS remains a training center it needed to be under a training wing at Eglin, but will continuing to operate at Tyndall. (Post)

-- Tyndall Air Force Base's 43rd Fighter Squadron set a new flying record Sept. 24, accomplishing 53 local sorties in one day. The previous record was 24 sorties. With several instructor pilots in danger of becoming noncurrent due to delays and cancellations throughout the year, the 43rd's increased sortie efforts served to ensure instructor pilots' currency and proficiency were met before the end of the fiscal year in October. (Post)

After a long history with the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, the 6th Special Operations Squadron made the transition to the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Fla.

The squadron is getting a new fleet of C-145A Skytrucks, a light cargo and passenger aircraft, instead of moving its assortment of rotary wing and turboprops. The 6th SOS is a combat aviation advisory unit whose mission is to assess, train, advise and assist foreign aviation forces in airpower employment, sustainment and force integration. (Post)

One of those aircraft type left behind was the UH-1 Huey. The final flight of a Huey at Hurlburt Field took place last month over Northwest Florida and South Alabama. The Huey has been the most popular light utility helicopter ever produced, with some variant being operated by the military in nearly 60 nations. (Post)

-- Meanwhile, the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field welcomed a new wing vice commander Oct. 1. He’s Col. William Holt. His previous assignments include commander of the combined joint special operations air component. He’s also a former commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. (Post)

Unmanned aircraft may be flying over your head sooner than you think.

In Grand Forks, N.D., a team of government, a not-for-profit research and development organization and academia completed two weeks of flight testing "sense and avoid" technology that could help unmanned aircraft integrate into the national air space.

The MITRE Corp. and the University of North Dakota developed automatic sense and avoid computer software algorithms that were uploaded onto a NASA Langley Research Center Cirrus SR-22. The NASA aircraft demonstrated how technology onboard allowed it to sense and avoid another aircraft, in this case a UND Cessna 172 "intruder" plane, flown by a university instructor pilot.

The Cirrus, developed to mimic unmanned aircraft systems, had a safety pilot in the cockpit, but researchers say computer programs developed by MITRE and UND automatically maneuvered the aircraft to avoid conflicts.

More than 100 leaders from academia, industry, government, the military and the general aviation community came to observe the demonstration. The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in work on unmanned systems. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded $16.6 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract issued under the joint DARPA/ONR Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) demonstration program. Most of the work will be done in Orlando, Fla., but Crestview, Fla., will perform 1.4 percent of the work. … L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $12.1 million contract modification for trainer maintenance services. Some of the work will be done at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. … CC Distributors, Corpus Christi, Texas, was awarded a $9 million fixed price with material reimbursable contract for a simplified method for authorized civil engineer personnel and self-help customers to purchase materials, equipment and supplies. The location of the performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC PZI/PZIOA, Eglin.

Dump scow: BAE Systems in Mobile started construction on the first of two dump scows for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. The first piece of steel for the ship was run through a robotic cutting machine. Delivery is scheduled for April 2013.

JHSV: Austal USA successfully completed the launch process of the second joint high-speed vessel, the USNS Choctaw County. JHSVs are 338 feet long and will be used to move troops, weapons and cargo.

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded an $11.6 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for fiscal year 2013 class services in support of class product fabrication, delivery, engineering, and engineering support of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. Work will be performed in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss.