Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year in review (12/29/12)

No doubt the headline-grabber for the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor in 2012 was the decision of Europe's Airbus to build a $600 million A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. It will forever change the face of the already considerable aerospace activity in this region.

But there were other significant aerospace stories for the region, including major steps in development of NASA's Space Launch System, progress in establishing the F-35 training center, an uptick in unmanned systems activities and corporate moves that over the long-run will have an impact on the region.

Here's the year in review:

Mobile, Ala., despite losing the tanker project in 2011, never gave up on getting an aircraft assembly plant. Talks with EADS and Airbus continued, and every now and then some intriguing story would pop up in the press, keeping hopes alive.

In June a story really caught everyone’s attention. There were multiple reports that Airbus would announce in the next few days that it would build an A320 assembly line in Mobile at Brookley Aeroplex (post). The formal announcement was made July 2 in an event that had all the markings of a celebration. The seven-building complex will take up 117 acres and produce four planes a month. The ceremonial groundbreaking will be in April 2013.

Airbus Americas chairman Allen McArtor said in November that the impact of Airbus would be even bigger than people are picturing. He pointed out that he wants to make the Mobile operation a showcase that will be a candidate for other Airbus projects (column).

The Airbus project has already prompted another project. France's Safran will build a $2 million engineering center, also at Brookley Aeroplex (post).

Space activity in the Gulf Coast region continued at both Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. At SSC, two types of engines that will be used for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) were regularly tested.

In January, the RS-25D engines that were at Kennedy Space Center in Florida began the move back to SSC for storage and eventually repurposing to power the main stage of the Space Launch System. A four-engine cluster will power the first stage of SLS.

SSC also had a heavy schedule of testing the J-2X engine that will be used in the upper stage of the SLS. In February engineers began a series of powerpack tests that wrapped up in December (post). In July the powerpack was fired for a record 1,350 seconds.

The SLS program wasn't the only propulsion-related activity during the year at SSC. In May there was a test of an RS-68A engine that will power a United Launch Alliance Delta IV (post), and in July SSC tested an AJ-26 that will power the Orbital Science Antares. Also in July SSC tested the engine used to power the Project Morpheus lander (post). In October, Blue Origin tested its BE-3 engine thrust chamber at SSC.

The future likely holds other interesting tests. Huntsville's Dynetics suggested in July that modified F-1 engines – the engines used to power the Saturn V -- could be used to power a heavy-lift NASA launch vehicle (post). Those were the engines tested at SSC in the past that made windows shake. In an unrelated story, F-1 engines were found in the Atlantic in March.

There was also non-space-related propulsion activity at SSC during the year. Rolls-Royce, which has been operating a test stand for aircraft engines at SSC, opted to spend $50 million for a second stand at SSC. Ground was broken in June (post).

In New Orleans, Michoud Assembly Facility was busy working on the Orion crew capsule that will sit atop the SLS. In June the finishing welds were put on the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 vehicle. The first space-bound capsule was delivered to Kennedy in July.

MAF is also scheduled to build the 200-foot-tall core stage of SLS. The design of that stage passed a technical review during the summer, and by the end of the year it was reported that construction on the SLS would begin soon at MAF.

Also at SSC, Lockheed Martin continued working on core structures for multiple Lockheed satellite programs, including the Advance Extremely High Frequency satellite and the Space Based Infrared System.

Another SSC activity from the past bore fruit during 2012. The satellite based ForWarn system, which tracks changes in forestlands, was released by USDA Forest Service in March. The effort was won an award in December for two federal agencies cooperating on a technology transfer program.

The year was packed with significant space stories, including the SpaceX Dragon capsule docking with the International Space Station in May; the FAA and NASA agreeing on standards for commercial space flights in June; and contracts for Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX for the Commercial Crew Development Program in August.

There were headlines about the F-35 throughout the year, but for the Gulf Coast one of the most significant was the approval given in December to begin training pilots on the F-35A conventional version of the plane beginning in January (post).

F-35s continued to arrive at Eglin throughout 2012. By May the number of F-35s stood at a dozen, and by July it stood at 16. It was also in July that the first international version, one owned by the United Kingdom, arrived at the base.

F-35As at Eglin were cleared to fly in March, though the first flight was cut short by a leak that was quickly corrected. An F-35B made its first flight at Eglin in May, and two F-35s had their first formation flight at the Eglin range in April. In September an F-35 from Eglin and an F-22 from Tyndall Air Force Base flew together in a sortie.

Also during the year, VFA-101 was re-established at Eglin for F-35 training in April and the first two UK students started training in November. Out in California, weapons testing with the F-35 continued. The first external weapons test was in February, and in October the first drop of a 2,000-pound bomb was conducted.

Also in 2012, the Air Force in April announced its preferred locations for operational F-35 bases, and in August announced that Luke Air Force Base in Arizona was its preferred location for an additional F-35 training center.

There was a lot of activity on the unmanned systems front in the Gulf Coast region during 2012. That's certainly not a surprise, considering the growing popularity of unmanned systems. In April the Pentagon said it will up UAV use 45 percent in 10 years (post).

In this region, the Northrop Grumman unmanned systems center in Moss Point, Miss., continued working on Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs. In April, a contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman to build eight of the larger versions of Fire Scout, based on a Bell 407 helicopter. Some of that work will be in Moss Point. In November the Moss Point center began work on the Navy's version of Global Hawk, named Triton.

The Navy continued to put the smaller version of the Fire Scout through the paces at sea. In June the USS Klakring left Mayport, Fla., with a record four Fire Scouts aboard. It returned later after setting a host of records.

There were also UAV crashes that got a lot of attention. The Navy in April temporarily suspended Fire Scout flights after two unrelated crashes. In June a Navy BAMS Global Hawk crashed in southern Maryland.

Work also progressed on development of the Northrop Grumman X-47B, the unmanned combat aircraft designed to be used on a Navy carrier. By December a test model was put through a few maneuvers on the deck of a carrier. Testing was also continuing to create an unmanned aerial tanker. In August, Northrop Grumman few Global Hawks in a formation that would be used for aerial refueling.

One of the more interesting news items about unmanned systems was the news during the summer that work is under way to create an indoor unmanned systems center in Shalimar, Fla. The 45,000 square-foot facility would be just outside Eglin Air Force Base (post).

In March, Camp Shelby, south of Hattiesburg, Miss., was chosen as the site for the $48 million Army Guard UAV regional flight center.

Early in the year Congress decided it wants to speed up allowing unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace. As part of that process, it wants to establish six UAV test sites. But the whole effort slowed down considerably. By November, the FAA indefinitely shelved the competition for six UAV test sites.

Although the Air Force has wanted to mothball its Block 30 Global Hawks – a desire not shared by Congress – interest in Global Hawks internationally continues. In February NATO said it plans to purchase five Global Hawks, and Canada in May was reported to be considering a variant of Global Hawk that would be called Polar Hawk. Late in the year South Korea expressed interest in buying three Global Hawks, but later reports indicated it is still considering other UAVs.

One of the biggest corporate stories was United Technologies purchase of Goodrich, and the resulting sale of some UT and Goodrich activities. Goodrich shareholders approved the merger in March. In July the UT takeover was completed, and Goodrich became part of the UTC Aerospace Systems.

In July UT's Rocketdyne, which has an operation at SSC in Mississippi, was sold to GenCorp, which doubled its size with the purchase. GenCorp also owns Aerojet, putting under one roof several rocket engines of significance to this region, including the AJ-26, J-2X, RD-25.

In October France's Safran bought the electrical power systems of Goodrich for $401 million. That's the company that in December said it would establish a $2 million engineering center at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex.

One merger that didn't work out was the proposal, first announced in September, of EADS and BAE Systems. But by October the entire effort was scuttled because of concerns of Germany. That led to a change in the ownership mix of EADS.

There were corporate celebrations as well. In May Boeing celebrates 50 years in Alabama, and in September Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space and Technology Center marked 10 years at Mississippi's SSC. In December Lockheed Martin marked 100 years since its birth in a California garage.

Other significant corporate stories during the year include ITT Exelis in October opening a mine defense production facility near the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, northwest of Panama City, Fla.; GE Aviation in October started taking applications for its engine parts plant in Hattiesburg; and L-3 Crestview Aerospace said the company will create 340 jobs within two years through the expansion of the Okaloosa County operation.

It was a period of transition for the area's bases. At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the Air Armament Center was deactivated in July as part of a consolidation effort (post). But Air Force officials continue to tell local supporters that the base's important research, development, test and evaluation mission will continue.

In February a High Pressure Particulate Physics Facility opened at Eglin (post).

At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in October, the 325th Wing marked its transition from the Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command. The base is also getting ready to welcome a combat squadron of F-22s.

There was still a lot of interest in the issues with the F-22. The Air Force identified the problems with the aircraft causing hypoxia-like problems with pilots, and steps were taken to mitigate the risks.

At Naval Air Station Whiting Field, the T-34 had its last training flight in April.

Other uses for military land also got some attention. Plans for a research park at Saufley Field in Pensacola were scuttled in September when it was determined that it would cost too much to move the Navy activities to nearby Naval Air Station Pensacola. Another land-use story that grabbed headlines was the decision in November to build a $25 million hotel on Air Force beachfront property in Okaloosa County.

Crashes claimed the lives of military personnel from the Gulf Coast region. In February, four Hurlburt Field airmen died in a U-28A crash in Djibouti, Africa, and the same month four Coast Guard crewmen die in an MH-65C crash in Mobile Bay.

There were at least two non-fatal crashes of military aircraft in the region during the year. In June a CV-22 tiltrotor crashed at the Eglin range during a formation flight. Nobody was seriously injured, and in August the Air Force ruled it was pilot error. In November an F-22 on routine mission crashed at Tyndall, but the pilot ejected and was OK.

Leadership changes
There were multiple leadership changes during the year. Patrick Scheuermann left his position as director of SSC to become director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He was replaced by Richard Gilbrech, who became the director at SSC for the second time. Scheuermann took over the spot formerly held by Gene Goldman, who retired in August to take a post with Aerojet.

Larry Sassano left the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, which he headed up for 15 years, to take over as interim director of Florida's Great Northwest. In Mobile, Win Hallett announces in November his retirement as head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bruce Frallic, the long-time head of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi, retired and was replaced by Clay Williams. In November, Melinda Crawford said she was leaving as head of the Pensacola Airport to take a similar job in Charlottesville, Va.

Learning centers
On the education front, there was a ribbon cutting in April for the $30 million Infinity Science Center near Stennis Space Center (post). In May, the National Flight Academy had its grand opening at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (post)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Week in review (12/16 to 12/22)

F-35 training to being next month; construction of the SLS will begin soon; Stennis Space Center has a new deputy director; the Air Force can use more state land in Florida for training; a county plans to sue Vision Airlines for unpaid fees; a county approves its part of an incentives package for an Airbus supplier; and L-3 talks expansion.

Here's your Gulf Coast aerospace week in review:

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is ready to start training pilots in the Air Force's variant of the Joint Strike Fighter beginning Jan. 7. The Air Force is tentatively planning initial operating capability by 2016 when the first operational base opens. An Air Education and Training Command Joint Operational Test Team conducted an operational utility evaluation this fall. The OUE lasted 46 days and focused on classroom and simulator training, along with six flights. (Post)

Construction is set to begin at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System. The work will being hundreds of jobs to Michoud in east New Orleans. The rocket is designed to bring astronauts on missions to deep space. In Huntsville, Ala., the core stage passed a preliminary design review at Marshall Space Flight Center Thursday. (Post)

In related testing, NASA completed the latest series of parachute tests for its Orion capsule at the Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Orion, built in New Orleans, is the capsule that will carry the astronauts into deep space. (Post)

Meanwhile, an executive with experience in the SLS program was selected as the deputy director of NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Jerry Cook served as the associate program manager of the SLS Program Office at MSFC in Huntsville. (Post)

In Florida, the Air Force will be allowed to conduct non-hazardous missions on additional state-owned land. The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to let the Air Force us pockets of land across the region. The agreement is part of an effort to ease competition for range space on Eglin Air Force Base’s 450,000-acre reservation. (Post)

-- The Operational Flight Program (OFP) Combined Test Force was recently recognized with the Ferguson Award for Engineering for developing F-15 aircraft modernization system, Suite 7E. OFP CTF is the first organization from Eglin to win the award since its inception in 2003. (Post)

In other OFP-related news, for the first time, developmental testing for an F-16 operational flight program will occur at the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin. The testing for Block 40 and 50 model F-16s is scheduled to begin in 2014. It will also be the first time developmental testing (DT) and operational testing (OT) of the OFP will be conducted at the same base. (Post)

-- Okaloosa County plans to sue Vision Airlines to recoup more than $146,000 in unpaid fees. The board authorized Airports Director Greg Donovan to work with county attorneys to take Vision to court if it doesn’t pay its debt by Dec. 31. Vision Airlines served Northwest Florida Regional Airport until last February. (Post)

The Mobile County Commission approved contributing $24,000 toward a $106,000 incentives package to bring Airbus supplier Labinal Engineering Inc. to Mobile. The incentives are from the city, county and state. Labinal, a subsidiary of Safran Engineering Services of France, plans to build a $2 million engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex. Brookley is also where Airbus plans to build an A320 assembly line. (Post)

-- Pegasus Airlines, second largest airline in Turkey, signed for up to 100 A320neo aircraft, with 75 of them firm orders. It’s the largest single commercial aircraft order ever placed by an airline in Turkey. AirAsia also recently ordered 100 A320s. (Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and L-3 Crestview Aerospace said during the week that the company will create 340 jobs within two years through the expansion of the Okaloosa County operation. The project is an investment of more than $13.7 million, including $7 million in facilities upgrades and the retrofit of hangar space at Bob Sikes Airport in 2013 and 2014. L-3 first announced the $7 million upgrade in November. (Post)

-- GE has agreed to purchase the aviation business of Avio S.p.A., an Italy-based manufacturer of aviation propulsion components and systems for civil and military aircraft, for $4.3 billion. The transaction is subject to regulatory and governmental approvals. GE Aviation is building an aircraft parts plant near Hattiesburg, Miss. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lockheed Company. Brothers Allan and Malcolm Lockheed founded the company out of a garage in California, where they built their Model G seaplane. Lockheed Martin has operations in the Gulf Coast region, including the Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator completed its first at-sea test phase aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B was put through myriad trials to assess the viability of an unmanned system's operation aboard a carrier. The X-47B isn’t built in this region, but Northrop Grumman does build portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout UAVs in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Boeing was awarded a $118 million contract to procure Lot 17 Guided Vehicle kits for the Joint Direct Attack Munition weapon system. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. ... Boeing also was awarded an $8.9 million contract for procurement of Laser Small Diameter Bombs retrofits, LSDB guided test vehicles, production, engineering, integration and test support and storage/shipping containers. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/PZJ, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. ... Northrop Grumman was awarded two contracts related to the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. One was a $19.2 million contract for logistics services, and the other a $33.3 million contract for the development, production, integration, and testing of nine radar systems. Work on both contracts will be done in San Diego, Calif., and Patuxent River, Md. Some of the work on Fire Scouts is done in Moss Point, Miss. … United Technologies was awarded an $85.3 million contract modification for the F119 Engine Sustainment. Among locations of performance is Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Zumwalt: Bath Iron Works in Maine erected the composite deckhouse for DDG 1000,  the U.S. Navy's next generation destroyer. The 900-ton deckhouse module, built in Gulfport, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding, was lifted to a height of about 100 feet using four cranes. (Post)

VT Halter: VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Miss., has partnered with Norwegian company Scana Volda AS for delivery of the propulsion systems and controls for two offshore supply vessels for Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. (Post)

Contracts: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $166.9 million contract to exercise the construction option for Joint High Speed Vessel 10. (Post)

Contract: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was awarded an $8 million contract to exercise an option for Littoral Combat Ship core class services. (Post)

Contract: Textron Inc., New Orleans, La., was awarded a $23.3 million contract to exercise an option for long lead time materials, advanced planning, engineering, procurement services and technical manuals for the Ship to Shore Connector program. (Post)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Week in review (12/9 to 12/15)

The J-2X powerpack wraps up testing; an early warning system created by Stennis Space Center and other agencies wins an award; NASA is named the best place to work in the federal government; a city and county prepare to vote on incentives for an Airbus supplier; Airbus lands an order for 100 A320s; a governor visits Eglin to check the noise level of the F-35; and an unmanned combat aircraft taxis on a carrier deck.

Here's your week in review:

Engineers conducted the final test of the J-2X powerpack assembly at Stennis Space Center, Miss., at the end of the week. The powerpack, which sits on top of the engine and feeds propellants to the bell nozzle of the engine to produce thrust, has burned millions of pounds of propellants during 13 tests totaling more than an hour and a half in 2012.

NASA engineers will remove the assembly from the test stand to focus on tests of the fully integrated engine. Installation on a test stand at Stennis will begin in 2013. The J-2X, developed by Rocketdyne, will power the upper stage of the Space Launch System that will take astronauts into deep space missions. (Post)

-- The ForWarn forest monitoring and assessment tool developed by NASA Stennis Space Center's Applied Science and Technology Project Office and other federal and university partners was chosen to receive a technology transfer award.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer announced last month that the ForWarn early warning system will receive the 2013 FLC Interagency Partnership Award. It recognizes the collaborative efforts of laboratory employees from at least two different agencies on a technology transfer project.

The ForWarn system was released earlier this year as a satellite-based monitoring and assessment tool for tracking changes in forest vegetation across the country, and providing a strategic, national overview of potential forest disturbances and environmental threats. (Post)

For a background story, see Pages 7-8 of the April 2010 issue of Alliance Insight.

-- NASA is the best place to work in the federal government among large agencies. That's according to a survey by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization.

The ranking reflects NASA's highest results since this index was developed. The rankings are based on responses from nearly 700,000 federal workers. This is the seventh edition of the Best Places to Work rankings. NASA's Stennis Space Center was ranked second in the sub-agency component category. (Post) Previous year

The city of Mobile and the county will vote next week on the economic incentives used to lure the first Airbus supplier to Mobile. The city will vote on a $70,000 incentive and the county on a $24,000 incentive. The state also is providing $12,000 to Labinal Engineering, a subsidiary of Safran Engineering Services, a France-based aerospace and defense firm that will create 50 jobs at Brookley Aeroplex. Airbus plans to build an A320 assembly line. (Post)

-- Airbus said it has received an order for 100 Airbus A320 aircraft from AirAsia. Asia's largest budget airline is expanding its fleet to tap into the growth in air travel in the region. The price was not disclosed, but the list price would come to $9.37 billion. (Post)

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, several staff members and two Vermont mayors were at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week to see first-hand how loud the F-35 is compared to an F-16. The National Air Guard Base in Burlington, Vt., currently has F-16s, but the base is a contender for F-35s. Shumlin concluded the F-35 would be quieter than the F-16. (Post)

Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $127.7 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5 contract. This effort includes requirements for the international partner governments as well as for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

A Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator aircraft for the first time taxied aboard a carrier earlier this month. During the test aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, deck operators used an arm-mounted control display unit to remotely control the aircraft. More tests are scheduled before the Truman returns to its homeport in Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Northrop Grumman builds portions of two other UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III was nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment as director, Air National Guard, National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va. Clarke is currently serving as commander, First Air Force (Air Force North), and commander, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

BAE Systems of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was selected by the Navy to  maintain and service T-34, T-44 and T-6 trainer aircraft under a contract valued at $400 million over five years. The work will be done at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. … Two Fort Walton Beach, Fla., companies, InDyne Inc. and Williams Electric Co., were among 10 companies awarded a $315,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract to provide for the services in support of various security and control systems. Work location will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 6, 2017. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $17 million contract modification for engineering, manufacturing and development phase option 1. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBYK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Austal: Craig Perciavalle was promoted to president of Austal USA, effective Dec. 17. Austal USA Interim President and Chief Financial Officer Brian Leathers was promoted to senior vice president and CFO, also effective Monday. (Post)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Week in review (12/2 to 12/8)

The comment from Win Hallett was particularly appropriate. Yes, good things come to those who wait, said the president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. But you better work like hell while you're waiting.

Hallett made the comment after the announcement last week that the French conglomerate Safran will establish a $2 million engineering center in Mobile. It's the first supplier to announce a move to the region after the July announcement that Airbus would build a $600 million A320 assembly line on 117 acres at Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

Safran Engineering Services' expertise is in wiring systems. It operates as an arm of Safran Group's Labinal, which produces wiring products for the biggest names in aerospace. Labinal already has operations in Everett, Wash., Salisbury, Md., Charleston, S.C., Wichita, Kan.; Denton, Texas, North Charleston, S.C., and Little Rock, Ark. The Mobile center will open in 2013 and eventually employ 50 engineers.

The addition of Safran adds another international company to this region's strong mix of companies with foreign roots (for a background story, see Chapter 1 of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-13). There's every reason to believe this region will continue attracting them.

Safran is no stranger to the United States. According to the company, its U.S. industrial footprint is the most extensive outside France. It includes 31 companies and joint ventures, with 58 locations across 22 states. The Safran Group has been involved in the U.S. aerospace, defense and security industries for more than four decades.

It provides a wide range of aerospace propulsion, security, aircraft braking and avionics products. The company's largest end-user is the Defense Department, with its technologies/products on KC-135R tankers, F-22 Raptors, UH-72A Lakotas and Delta IV launch systems. The company says Boeing is its largest single U.S. customer. Other customers are Bell, Sikorsky, Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier Aerospace, Airbus, Embraer, Dassault Aviation and Eurocopter.

Headquartered in Paris, Safran was formed by a merger between the aircraft and rocket engine maker and aerospace component manufacturer group Snecma and the security company Sagem in 2005. It has three main branches: aerospace propulsion, aircraft equipment -- of which Labinal is a part -- and defense security.

Its activities in the United States are handled by Safran USA of Arlington, Va. Its lineup includes commercial and military aircraft engines, aircraft braking and landing systems, and navigation systems for submarines. The company's nearest operation to Mobile is Globe Motors Inc. in Dothan, Ala., east of Fort Rucker.

A sister company of Safran Engineering also has ties to another company that recently moved into this region. Snecma is a 50/50 partner with GE Aviation in the joint company CFM International, which makes the CFM56 airliner engines in Ohio and France. GE Aviation is building a parts plant in Ellisville, near Hattiesburg. The CFM56 is used in Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Although Mobile got the first supplier, there's no doubt other areas are looking to cash in on the Airbus project. And in fact, Mobile's closest neighbors were just as interested in landing Safran, according to reports.

"We weren't surprised to have competition from our east and our west, but we just didn't think they'd be as aggressive as they were," Mobile Mayor Sam Jones told the Mobile Press Register after the announcement.

Jones said cities such as Pensacola, Fla., and Pascagoula, Miss., are certainly equipped to attract and house the caliber of support enterprises Airbus will require to support its Mobile facility, but Mobile is focused on cultivating the long-term relationships to continue attracting foreign investment to Mobile Bay.

In discussing regional teamwork in economic development, officials have always made it clear that they work together to help a neighbor land a big project if it's a finalist, but they do compete for individual projects. Some call it "coopetition." And that's what's happening right now.

Birmingham has begun its courtship of suppliers, according to a Q&A that appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal. Rick Davis, Birmingham Business Alliance senior vice president of economic development, joined the Alabama delegation in a trip to an aviation conference in Hamburg, Germany, last month, making the case for Birmingham. (Post)

And nearby Pensacola is also interested in getting in on the action. Pensacola has been courting for some time now a branch of ST Mobile Aerospace, which has a facility at Brookley Aeroplex. Pensacola leaders are pulling out all the stops to make it happen, according to Pensacola News Journal columnist Carlton Proctor. He also reports that Dothan, Ala., is interested in the company. (Column)

Hang on to your hats folks. It's going to get busy.

Ownership of Airbus parent EADS is changing, with France and Germany ending their grip on the board room two months after the collapse of merger talks with BAE Systems. The first beneficiary is German auto group Daimler, which raised over $2 billion selling holdings.

The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. owns, in addition to Airbus, businesses that build rocket and missile launhers, satellites, fighter aircraft and helicopters. Under the new plan, German and French state interests will hold 12 percent each, and Spain will hold 4 percent. (Post)

This should make day to day business a lot easier for EADS. Who knows, we may see a new effort to joint EADS and BAE Systems.

-- The objection of the U.S. Justice Department prompted United Technologies and TransDigm Group Inc. to terminate the previously announced sale of the Goodrich Corp. pump and engine control systems business to TransDigm of Cleveland.

Sale of the unit is one of the divestitures required by regulatory authorities as a condition of UTC's acquisition of Goodrich. UTC, of Hartford, Conn., intends to comply with its obligation to sell this business to a buyer acceptable to the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission. (Post)

This merger of of interest to the Gulf Coats region. The Goodrich Alabama Service Center is in Foley, Ala., and Rocketdyne, a United Technologies company that is being sold to GenCorp, assembles and tests rockets at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Unmanned systems
A Navy Fire Scout detachment returned to Mayport, Fla., earlier this month after achieving several milestones during its five-month deployment aboard USS Klakring. The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter detachment logged more than 500 flight hours in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility.

With a record number of unmanned helicopters aboard Klakring, Fire Scout regularly maintained 12-hour days on station and regularly switching aircraft to provide continuous support. The system accomplished a new single-day endurance record, providing ISR support for 24 hours. Dual air vehicle operations were also performed. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., by Northrop Grumman. (Post)

-- In Mississippi, unmanned aerial systems were the focus of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation dinner at the Ocean Springs Civic Center. George Freeland, executive director of JCEDF, said that in economic development, it's important to pursue fields with high potential.

And that's the case with UAVs. The county does finishing work on Fire Scouts and builds the fuselage for Global Hawk, including the Navy's version, Triton. The featured speakers at the dinner were Walt Kreitler, director of the Triton program for Northrop Grumman, and Michael Toscano, president and CEO of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. (Post)

-- Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia are partnering to establish a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aerial systems. The Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition hopes an FAA designation could make the region a focal point for contractors and start-ups alike. The FAA is set to select six unmanned system test sites, though the effort has been delayed. (Post)

-- A battery-powered Navy vehicles was lost in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City and Biltmore Beach late in the week. According to the Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., the command lost contact with the Remus 100 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle during a training exercise. The vehicle is black, 6 feet long and 7 inches in diameter. (Post)

U.S. Air Force Gen. Christopher Bogdan has been named head of the F-35 Program Office. Bogdan was the F-35 deputy program manager. In August, he was nominated to head the program by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He takes over for retiring Vice Adm. David Venlet. Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $386.7 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition Contract to provide sustainment support for delivered air systems. It includes ground maintenance activities, depot activation activities, support pilot and maintainer initial training and more.

Thirty-five percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the rest done at Ft. Worth, Texas, El Segundo, Calif., Warton, United Kingdom, and other locations in the United States. It’s expected to be completed in October 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Florida has awarded $1.58 million in Defense Infrastructure Grants for fiscal year 2012-13 to local community organizations that support Florida military installations. The grants work to protect a $60 billion economic impact and more than 686,000 direct and indirect jobs, which the defense industry annually infuses into Florida.

In Northwest Florida, awards were given to Bay County Board of County Commissioners, Santa Rosa County, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners. Okaloosa received awards for both Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)

-- A Hurlburt Field airman who rescued a Marine then was himself severely wounded by an improvised explosive device received the Silver Star last month at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Tech Sgt. Joe Deslauriers, an explosive ordnance technician with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron, lost both legs in the September 2011 explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Post)

-- Air Force Col. Walter J. Sams was nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general and for assignment as mobilization assistant to the commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall Air Force
Base, Fla. Sams' appointment was among 21 announced Friday. (Post)

-- Next year's air show at Tyndall Air Force Base has been canceled because of budget constraints. That's the word from Lt. Melanie Holiday, a base spokeswoman. Tyndall officials said they made the decision to stop planning for the event after careful review and consideration of fiscal responsibility of taxpayer dollars and mission requirements. (Post)

Vision Airlines and the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi will bring nonstop flights from Orlando to Gulfport, Miss., starting Feb. 6. Service will be three days a week on 136-seat Boeing 737 aircraft from Orlando Sanford International Airport. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, Fla., named John Van Etten as the new deputy chief of police. Van Etten has 28 years experience in law enforcement, and for the past eight years was police chief for the Panama City Police Department. (Post)

Economic development
The Army's 7th Special Forces Group, which opened its cantonment at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into the Okaloosa County economy between 2010 and 2016. That’s according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida. The 7th SFG moved to Eglin from its former home at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Post)

LPD 17: The Navy accepted delivery of the eighth LPD 17 class amphibious transport dock ship, the future USS Arlington (LPD 24), from Huntington Ingalls Industries on Friday. (Post)

Austal: Austal USA delivered the joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead to the U.S. Navy in a signing ceremony Wednesday. The 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran completed acceptance trials in August and will leave Mobile toward the end of this month. (Post)

Boat show: The International WorkBoat Show was held in New Orleans and thousands gathered for the three-day event. It’s touted as the largest maritime trade show in North America. (Post)

Wave Glider: U.S. based Liquid Robotics, an ocean data service provider and
developer of the Wave Glider, said a Wave Glider completed a 9,000 nautical mile scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. (Post)

VT Halter Marine: Ground was broken on a major expansion of VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula. The new ship repair facility will create 400 jobs at VT Halter Marine, which designs and builds ships for the military, among others. (Post)

L-3 Services: L-3 Services Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., was awarded a $12.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for field service representatives to perform maintenance and repair of the U.S. Marine Corps mine roller systems. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Huntington Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $54.5 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise the third option for Life Cycle Engineering and support services on the LPD 17-class Amphibious Transport Dock Ship program. Work will be performed in Pascagoula. (Post)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Week in review (11/25 to 12/1)

An Alabama delegation's trip to Germany; some milestones for the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat system; a delay in establishing six UAV test sites; a problem with cracks in the Orion crew vehicle; more rocket engine and component tests at Stennis Space Center; a contract to work on SSC’s B-2 test stand; and a weapons drop test for the F-35C were among the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

A delegation of economic development and elected officials from Alabama was in Germany during the week. They met with nine companies that may be interested in setting up shop in Alabama, where Airbus' plans to build a $600 million A320 assembly line at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

The group attended the two-day Aviation Forum 2012 in Hamburg, a supplier conference that drew representatives from about 150 companies. In a speech there, Gov. Robert Bentley touted Alabama's workforce and training programs. (Post)

"Suppliers can benefit from the same positive business climate that helped us attract Airbus. We're ready to work with companies and partner with them to bring even more jobs to Alabama," Bentley said.

Alabama has more than 300 aerospace-related companies, primarily in north Alabama. Bentley said the Airbus project will help spur additional aerospace development in other regions of the state.

"The fact that Airbus is bringing 1,000 new jobs to Alabama is a major achievement," Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a release from the governor's office. "But when you also consider that one assembly line job with Airbus could span as many as three to four additional jobs when related industry comes to support the company's needs, that means Alabama will be part of a major aerospace sector," he said.

According to the Mobile Press-Register, Canfield said the Mobile facility is expected to support an aerospace supply chain extending as far as 300 miles from Mobile. That means into Louisiana and Northwest Florida. Alabama is working with regional and local organizations to offer aerospace companies a new Supplier Support Network that will help them understand regulations, permitting, workforce recruitment, training opportunities and more.

"This year's Airbus announcement is, in many ways, similar to the announcement that Mercedes was coming to Alabama back in the 1990s," Bentley said in a release from his office. "Since then, not only has Mercedes opened, expanded and hired additional people, so have other automotive companies and suppliers. In fact, thousands of people work for automotive suppliers across the state."

He said that with Airbus jetliner production coming to Alabama, there's potential for similar growth in the aerospace industry.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy conducted the Navy's first catapult launch of an unmanned system, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System, or UCAS, demonstrator. The test was done at a shore-based catapult facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. There will be multiple shore-based catapult launches before an X-47B demonstrators is launched from a ship. (Post)

In Norfolk, Va., an X-47B UCAS demonstrator was hoisted on board aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, CVN 75, early in the week. The X-47B, which has a wider wingspan than an F/A-18 Super Hornet, will undergo a variety of tests. The test will be conducted over three weeks and will include in-port and underway demonstrations.

"The moment the aircraft set down on Truman's deck was the moment it officially met the fleet," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS program manager, who called it an historic moment. (Post)

A lot of folks in Moss Point, Miss., are keeping an eye on the X-47B. Northrop Grumman builds portions of two other UAVs, Global Hawk and Fire Scout, at a 101,000 square-foot facility north of Pascagoula.

-- The Federal Aviation Administration has indefinitely shelved a competition to select six test sites to assess whether unmanned aerial vehicles can be integrated into manned airspace. The agency was to have named the six sites by next month, but previously missed a July deadline for requesting applications.

Now the FAA is saying it needs to delay the competition because it needs to first address privacy concerns raised by the use of drone aircraft in the nation’s airspace. The goal of the test sites is to determine whether UAVs can safely be operated alongside manned aircraft by 2015. (Post) The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International sent a letter to the Department of Transportation and FAA urging the organizations to no longer delay the release of the test site RFP.

NASA is evaluating options for repairing the first Orion crew capsule scheduled to fly in space after it sustained cracks during pressure testing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The test was designed to demonstrate weld strength and structural performance at maximum flight operation pressures.

The damage is not expected to delay a 2014 test flight, where the capsule without a crew will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV to a distance 3,600 miles above the Earth. The core of the Orion was built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

-- A J-2X power pack assembly had a hot fire test Nov. 27 at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Engineers pulled the assembly from the test stand in September to install additional instrumentation in the fuel turbopump. The test verified the newly installed strain gauges designed to measure the turbine structural strain when the turbopump is spinning at high speeds that vary between 25,000 and 30,000 rotations-per-minute. The J-2X engine will power the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System. (Post)

-- The E Test Complex at Stennis Space Center was busy the week of Nov. 5. Twenty-seven tests were conducted in a three-day period on three different rocket engines/components and on three E Complex test stands. These included tests on the three stands during a 24-hour period Nov. 6-7 and during a nine-hour-plus period on Nov. 8. Test managers characterized the convergence of tests as historic. (Post)

-- EMCOR Group Inc. of Norwalk, Conn., said subsidiary Harry Pepper and Associates was awarded a task order by NASA under a previously awarded contract for restoration of the B-2 Rocket Test Stand at Stennis Space Center. The company will be responsible for all repairs and alterations necessary to restore the original functionality of the B-2 test stand. (Post)

-- The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., is opening an exhibit to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the last walk on the moon. John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell, Gene Krantz, Fred Haise, Eugene Cernan and more are all scheduled to attend the Dec. 15 opening of the exhibit, which will feature a replica of an Apollo Lunar Excursion Module. (Post)

-- The University of New Orleans is getting a three-year, $1.5 million grant from NASA to develop improvements to the nation's air traffic control system. A UNO news release says the research is for the comprehensive overhaul of the air traffic system to increase capacity and safety. UNO researchers will be joined on the project by colleagues from LSU and Southern University. (Post)

The F-35 integrated test force aboard Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., completed a weapons ejection milestone for the F-35 carrier variant Wednesday. CF-2, the second F-35C test aircraft, ejected a 2,000-pound inert GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb from an internal weapons bay into a foam-covered concrete pit, completing the series of first-ever ground weapons ejections for the F-35C.

In addition to the GBU-31 and GBU-12, the CF-2 team successfully ejected the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). Overall, the team completed eleven weapon releases, split between the left and right weapon bays, earlier than planned. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center. (Post)

Melinda Crawford is leaving her post as director of Pensacola International Airport to take a similar job in Charlottesville, Va. She’ll remain airport director in Pensacola until mid-February. She was named airport director in 2009. (Post) Earlier this year at another Gulf Coast airport, long-time Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport executive director Bruce Frallic retired and was replaced by Clay Williams.

-- Vision Airlines owes Northwest Florida Regional Airport $146,973, and the airport is considering legal action. Most of the money, $112,378, is unpaid passenger facility charges. The rest is unpaid utilities, rent and fuel for its ground servicing equipment, as well as late fees. Vision Airlines no longer serves the airport, but is still flying out of Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. (Post)

-- Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., are the finalists in the U.S. Air Force for the Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. The selection board will visit both bases in January. The winner will receive a $1 million award to invest in a quality-of-life element of the base. (Post)

-- Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal will host a ground breaking ceremony Wednesday for the Ground Ordnance Division and Tools and Methods Division’s building. The ceremony will take place behind the Kauffman Training Complex in Niceville, Fla. (Post)

Two companies were awarded contracts for work on training aircraft at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Naval Air Station Whiting Field and other Navy bases. BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services Inc., of Rockville, Md., was awarded a $76.6 million contract for organizational, intermediate, depot level maintenance for T-34 and T-44 aircraft. The contract also provides logistics support including labor, services, facilities, equipment, tools, related support equipment, and direct and indirect material to support 124 T-34, 55 T-44, 42 T-6A, and 141 T-6B aircraft based primarily at Naval Air Stations Corpus Christi, Texas, Whiting Field and Pensacola. In addition, Sikorsky Support Services Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $12.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for additional logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance to support 179 T-34, 54 T-44 and 192 T-6 aircraft based primarily at NAS Corpus Christi, Whiting Field, and Pensacola. … CCI Group LLC, Shalimar, Fla., was awarded a $10 million contract for simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements-maintenance, repair and minor construction efforts. The location of the performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC/PZIO, Eglin. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $178.6 million contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase 1 of the B61-12 Tailkit Assembly. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBBC, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

CNO: Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, was in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week visiting Ingalls Shipbuilding and VT Halter Marine. At Ingalls he toured the amphibious assault ship America, LHA 6. (Post)

Contract: Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $26.6 million contract for Undersea Warfare product support. Work will be performed in California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi and Virginia. (Post)

The Mobile Press-Register reported that International Shipholding Corp. in Mobile successful closed its previously announced $111 million acquisition of Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. United Ocean Services LLC (Story). The paper also reported that the Coast Guard extended the due date for shipbuilders to submit proposals to design and construct the new Offshore Patrol Cutter to Jan. 23, 2013, from the previous deadline of Jan. 10 (Story).