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).

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