Saturday, February 23, 2013

Week in review (2/17 to 2/23)

Two cutting-edge ideas for space propulsion; the grounding of F-35s because of a crack in an engine blade; the flight of the first production model F-35C; a new round of testing of the J-2X engine; an airport finally gets paid by Vision Airlines; two new aviation schools for high school students; and grants from Florida to protect bases in Northwest Florida were some of the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

Here's the week in review:

A routine engine inspection at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., revealed a crack on an engine blade of the F135 engine installed in F-35A aircraft AF-2. As a precaution, all F-35 flight operations, including those at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., have been suspended until the investigation is completed.

The engine's turbine module and associated hardware is being shipped to Pratt & Whitney's Engine Facility in Middletown, Conn., to conduct more thorough evaluation and root cause analysis.

For Eglin, home of the F-35 training center, that means no flying for 22 F-35s. The base has nine F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets and 13 F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing jets already on station.

Earlier this month Pratt & Whitney was awarded a $65 million modification to a previously awarded advanced acquisition contract for F135 Lot VI recurring sustainment, operations, and maintenance efforts, including labor and materials required to maintain and repair F135s. Before that Pratt & Whitney finalized a contract with the Pentagon for 32 engines to power a fifth batch of F-35s. (Post)

If you've followed the F-35 issue a long time, you'll recall that there once was an alternate engine for the aircraft: the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136. The Pentagon decided to stop development of the alternate engine, but the companies continued funding it on their own for a while. They finally gave up the effort in late 2011.

Meanwhile, the first Lockheed Martin production model F-35C carrier variant, known as CF-6, flew its first sortie recently in Fort Worth, Texas. Upon delivery later this year, the jet will be assigned to Navy Fighter Attack Squadron 101, VFA-101, at Eglin. The unit will serve as the Fleet Replacement Squadron, training Navy F-35C pilots and maintainers. (Post)

An associate pointed out an interesting piece by Bloomberg during the week. The story says the F-35 program may be too big to kill. Lockheed Martin has a network of 45 states and 1,300 suppliers involved in the program, and at least nine other countries have a piece of the action. (Story)

This news likely made folks in Moss Point, Miss., just a bit uncomfortable. But the folks who make fuselages for Global Hawks need to keep in mind that in an age where the Pentagon is tightening its belt, a lot of programs are on the table.

Aviation Week during the week reported that in early talks on the forthcoming fiscal 2014 budget request, the Air Force proposes the Block 40 Global Hawk be terminated in favor of higher-priority programs. Northrop Grumman declined to comment.

Northrop Grumman has delivered eight of 11 Block 40s on order. Sixteen Block 30s of 30 planned have been delivered. Early work on the next of each block is under way at the company's Moss Point facility and both are slated for delivery in 2014.

NATO's work on the Global Hawk-based Alliance Ground Surveillance program continues as does the Navy’s program to outfit a Global Hawk for maritime surveillance. In a related matter, a Global Hawk support unit at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., will be deactivated Sept. 29 due to Pentagon budget cutbacks. There are 80 full-time and 115 traditional Air Force reservists serving in the affected 13th Reconnaissance Squadron. (Post)

If you're interested in space and the propulsion systems – and in this region we are – you'll be interested in these items that came down the pike during the week.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was in Huntsville Friday to unveil a "fusion power generator" developed by the University of Alabama in Huntsville that could revolutionize space travel, according to the Huntsville Times.

The event at the Army's Redstone Arsenal was to announce the $300,000 grant from the Alabama Innovation Fund and to unveil the device, called Charger 1. Officials say Charger 1 will be instrumental in advancing propulsion technology and maintaining Alabama's status as a leading state in aerospace and propulsion research.

Huntsville has close ties to the Gulf Coast. Stennis Space Center, Miss., is where NASA and commercial companies test propulsion systems. The ties go back to the 1960s, and continue to this day. (Post)

Speaking of cutting-edge systems, NASA's Space Technology Program is seeking proposals to develop miniaturized electrospray propulsion technologies that could revolutionize small satellite propulsion systems. These systems have been around a while, but NASA is pushing for further development.

Electrospray thrusters use electricity to energize material and then disperse a resulting liquid or aerosol through an emitter to create thrust. The development of low-mass, lightweight micro thruster technologies has the potential to radically change propulsion capabilities of small satellites, according to NASA, and they could be used in larger systems as well.

"Small spacecraft are a dominant trend in aerospace today," said NASA's Space Technology Program Director Michael Gazarik. "As NASA develops and improves the use of small satellites for science and exploration, we recognize propulsion as a critical need to open the door for small spacecraft applications. We need better miniaturized systems to propel and maneuver our small space adventurers."

NASA will take ideas from U.S. organizations, including NASA centers and other government agencies; federally funded research and development centers; educational institutions; industry and nonprofit organizations. (Post)

We have a lot of folks in this region involved in propulsion technology, so don't be surprised if some ideas come from this neck of the woods. NASA builds pieces of the next generation space exploration system at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and NASA tests large rocket engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. And that's also where Rolls-Royce tests airliner engines.

Not that far away, just north of Hattiesburg, Miss., GE Aviation is building an engine parts plant. In Alabama, Auburn is getting a new GE Aviation engine parts place, and in Florida, Florida State University has its Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion in Tallahassee.

Bet a few of these folks and private companies could come up with proposals for NASA.

This is an interesting follow-up to something I wrote about in Wednesday’s column. That column talked about the Pentagon’s interest in establishing cutting-edge manufacturing clusters nationwide. Now here's something from NASA, also about innovation.

The military has always been interested in finding technologies that will give it the edge in war, but NASA has been "out there" on the cutting edge of science since the agencies inception. Last week I mentioned the latest edition of Spinoff, which highlights the NASA-related technologies that worked their way into the private sector. And those are just the things that found commercial applications.

So it's not surprising that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during the week announced creation of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. As envisioned, it will be a catalyst for the creation of technologies and innovation needed to maintain NASA leadership in space while also benefiting America's economy.

The directorate will develop the cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies needed for NASA's current and future missions, many of which also benefit America's aerospace industries and other government agencies.

NASA will focus leadership responsibility for the existing Space Technology Program in the mission directorate, improving communication, management and accountability of critical technology investment activities across the agency. Associate Administrator Michael Gazarik will head the organization.

The Space Technology Mission Directorate will employ a portfolio approach, spanning a range of discipline areas and technology readiness levels. Research and technology development will take place within NASA centers, in academia, and industry, and leverage collaboration with other government and international partners. (Post)

Earlier I mentioned what we have here related to propulsion systems, but I should also mention that we have two universities involved in advanced materials work, certainly a critical field for NASA. The University of Southern Mississippi has its school of polymer and high performance materials and the Mississippi Polymer Institute in Hattiesburg, and in Tallahassee Florida State University has its High-Performance Materials Institute.

NASA conducted the first in a new round of tests on the J-2X rocket engine Feb. 15 at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The 35-second test continued progress in development of the engine that will power the upper-stage of NASA's new Space Launch System.

The new round of tests on J-2X engine number 10002 on the A-2 Test Stand will provide performance data. Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand at SSC to undergo a series of gimbal tests for the first time.

The J-2X engine is the first human-rated liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engine developed in the United States in decades. It is being designed and built by NASA and partner Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. (Post)

-- ATK delivered a launch abort motor to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) of NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, scheduled to fly next year. The test flight abort motor is configured with inert propellant since EFT-1 will have no crew but otherwise replicates the launch abort system that will ensure astronaut safety.

The abort motor is part of Orion's Launch Abort System designed to pull the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the initial ascent. The launch abort motor is more than 17 feet tall. ATK is on contract to Lockheed Martin, prime contractor building the Orion spacecraft, being built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

-- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden saw some cutting-edge techniques being used to create parts for the engines of the Space Launch System during a visit Friday to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Bolden saw the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing Rapid Prototyping Facility to take a look at equipment used in selective laser melting, similar to 3-D printing. Laser melting enables the production of complex, strong metal parts without welding. NASA also has the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing is at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $284.4 million contract for advanced procurement for the Space-Based Infrared Systems GEO 5-6 program. The location of performance is Sunnyvale, Calif., and work is expected to be completed by June 19, 2016. But some of the work will be done at Lockheed Martin's facility at Stennis Space Center, which works on the SBIR propulsion subsystem. (Post)

Less than 24 hours after it was charged with grand theft, Vision Airlines paid the money it owed Okaloosa County. The Nevada-based carrier sent a check for $117,659.98 to Northwest Florida Regional Airport early Tuesday, county Airports Director Greg Donovan said.

The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that State Attorney Bill Eddins said he was pleased to hear that Vision had paid the county. "It is certainly a mitigating factor in the criminal case," he said. "But it's premature for me to indicate where this leaves us." Vision Airlines owed the county a portion of the passenger facility charges it collected while operating at Northwest Florida Regional from December 2010 to July 2012. (Post)

-- Passenger traffic at Florida's Pensacola International Airport increased by more than four percent in January. The Pensacola News Journal reported airport marketing spokeswoman Belinda Zephir said a total of 101,647 passengers passed through the city-owned facility last month, an increase of 4,098. (Post)

-- In Florida, Destin's refurbished runway opened last week and within minutes  planes were touching down. Crews from C.W. Roberts and RS&H spent the past month resurfacing the 5,000-foot-long, 100-foot-wide runway, according to the Destin Log and Northwest Florida Daily News. The airport had been closed to fixed-wing air traffic since Feb. 4 during the runway’s first major overhaul since it opened in 1963. The airport sees about 60,000 flights a year. (Post)

The state is sending funds to Escambia, Santa Rosa and Bay counties to help support the
military. The Florida Defense Support Task Force is providing $500,000 to the Bay Defense Alliance in Panama City to acquire land to buffer Naval Support Activity Panama City from encroachment.

Florida is also providing $250,000 the Greater Pensacola Chamber to help outfit a lab for cyber security analysis. The Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze will receive $225,000 to help Wounded Warriors recuperate, and Santa Rosa County is getting $160,000 to build a fence separating Naval Air Station Whiting Field from the New Whiting Aviation Park.

Another $1.5 million was awarded to six other projects in Orlando, Highlands County and Jacksonville. (Post)

-- The chief of staff, Air Force announced several assignments of interest to the Gulf Coast region. Maj. Gen. Norman J. Brozenick Jr., commander, Special Operations Command - Pacific, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, is being assigned to vice commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Brig. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, selected for the rank of major general, director, plans, programs, requirements, and assessments at headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, is being assigned to commander, Special Operations Command - Europe/director, Special Operations, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany; Col. Albert M. Elton II, selected for the rank of brigadier general, commander, 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., is being assigned as director, plans, programs, requirements, and assessments, headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field. (Post)

Officials with Alabama's Mobile County schools unveiled plans on Monday for the new Aerospace Training Facility to be built at B.C. Rain High School. The 15,500-square-foot building, which will cost $1.9 million, will be able to accommodate a variety of training programs. The Aerospace Training Facility is part of the school system’s signature academies initiative. Davidson High has an engineering academy, while Murphy High offers programs in international studies and culinary arts. (Post)

Across the bay from Mobile in Fairhope, city, state and county officials gathered in Continental Motors' hangar at the municipal airport Friday to announce a $2.5 million aviation training center. It’s a partnership between Faulkner State Community College, Enterprise State, the Fairhope Airport Authority and the Baldwin County Board of Education. Plans are to create a 15,000-square-foot aviation center on the land at the H.L. “Sonny” Callahan Airport. A target opening date is set for early 2014. ( story, WPMI story)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An opportunity

On the heels of the establishment last year of a 3-D printing institute in Youngstown, Ohio, the Department of Defense is ready to launch two more manufacturing initiatives officials hope will revolutionize weapon development – and have other commercial applications.

The president in his state of the union said DoD will stand up two institutes in partnership with manufacturers and research universities. Where is still unclear, but each will focus on a specific manufacturing technology. DoD will select focus areas in the next 30 days and award contracts in the fall, according to Defense News. (Story)

The significance of these federal facilities is hard to overstate. The promise is that each will become a focal point for a particular type of manufacturing technology. The Gulf Coast region is already familiar with the benefits of versions of this type of federal initiative.

The region is home to the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Established in 1999, it's a partnership of NASA, Michoud, the state of Louisiana and the University of New Orleans. It's where NASA and its corporate partners are building the Orion spacecraft and portions of the Space Launch System.

Some 400 employees at MAF are associated with NCAM, which strives to improve U.S. competitiveness in aerospace and commercial markets and enable transfer of technology to industry partners and educational institutions. It’s been successful enough that last summer the agreement extended five years and now includes Louisiana State University. (Post)

The Gulf Coast is also home to one of 10 pilot programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration. A few years ago SBA invested more than $1 million in each of the 10 clusters nationwide. One of those clusters is the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions of Bay St. Louis, Miss., which received $1.2 million between 2010 and 2011 and $385,000 in 2012.

This region is also home to the Northern Gulf Institute, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative research institute established in 2006. Led by Mississippi State University, it also includes the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Florida State University and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Now DoD is getting involved in creating clusters it believes will help in its mission.

The nearly 700-page National Defense Authorization Act calls for DoD to establish regional advanced technology clusters nationwide. The idea is to build science and technology based innovation capacity in areas of local and regional strength, foster economic growth and improve technologies that will advance DoD's mission.

3-D printing is just one area of high interest to the military. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio, was established last summer using $45 million in pooled funds from multiple federal agencies. It focuses on advancing additive manufacturing, the industry term for 3-D manufacturing.

Put simply, additive manufacturing uses materials rather than ink to "print" a part layer by layer. It's particularly important for users who need very few of a specialized replacement part. It's also important for users -- think military -- who want to take part-making capability on the road.

Establishing the center makes the former steel town a hot spot for this cutting-edge technology. Now Washington wants to establish other institutes elsewhere to home in on other technologies that will transform manufacturing in the United States. Other focus areas may include electro-optics or lightweight composites.

For the Gulf Coast region, establishing one of these DoD institutions here makes sense. The region has a heavy military presence with all branches represented, and multiple universities have activities here. It's conceivable many of them could work together at a DoD institute. After all, they do so with the Northern Gulf Institute.

In fact, the Youngstown institute shows that even those not chosen are willing to join forces with the winning proposal. The Pentagon got more than a dozen proposals for consortiums looking to win the 3-D printing initiative. More than 80 major companies and universities that were involved in other proposed sites are participating in the Youngstown project, according to Defense News.

The same would likely happen here. It's not a stretch to picture universities from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida joining forces in a project in this region. We also have a lot of experience with federal organizations teaming together in the Gulf Coast.

NASA's Stennis Space Center is a federal city where multiple federal and state agencies have established operations. It's home to one of the four DoD Supercomputing Resource Centers and the Department of Homeland Security’s National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage. The federal and state operations there work together and share services, so they know what cooperation is all about.

One of these DoD institutions here would seem a natural.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week in review (2/10 to 2/16)

Some time back I wrote that I might have to start doing this column twice a week because so much goes on in aerospace and defense in this region. Well the time has come.

Starting this week, in addition to this Saturday review of the week's aerospace news, I’ll have a column mid-week, Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. It may be a story, it may be an analysis, it may be an opinion piece. I may even call on associates to write a guest column.

The topic will be aerospace or a relevant field, like advanced materials or sensors, or perhaps robotics and artificial intelligence, considering the growing use of unmanned systems. Feel free to write to me to suggest topics. You can reach me at

The page views for this column have been slowly rising, indicating there are a lot of folks out there interested in the goings-on of the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor. A lot of the audience is from overseas, which is encouraging for a region interested in attracting foreign investors. Providing readers with additional information made sense to me.

If you subscribe to the Saturday column, there's no need to take any action. You’ll get the additional column when it's posted. If you go to the blog or the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor website to read it, don't forget to check during the week.

Now here's the week in review:

It' something a lot of folks have been waiting for. It finally happened late last week. The federal government is now looking for proposals in order to establish six test sites where unmanned aircraft will be put through tests in preparation for their eventual integration into U.S. airspace.

More than 30 states, one article noted 35, have expressed interest in getting one of the sites that will become the primary testing grounds for unmanned aerial systems that are scheduled to enter U.S. airspace in September 2015. The chosen sites promise to be hotbeds for research and development, and are likely to attract companies involved in unmanned aerial systems.

The FAA is behind schedule and it's unclear when the six winning sites will be chosen. The FAA had given itself a Dec. 31, 2012, deadline to name the six sites but the effort was delayed due to privacy issues. Those concerns remain, and some states have taken steps to regulate the use of drone surveillance. (Post)

A test site in this region would make sense. The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in building and using UAVs. Fire Scouts and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and the airport in Moss Point has a certificate of authorization to fly UAVs.

The Army National Guard opened a $48 million UAV flight center at Camp Shelby, Miss., south of Hattiesburg, last spring. Over at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., special warfare personnel use UAVs in training. Over in Okaloosa County, Fla., there's a push to develop an indoor unmanned systems center near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

There are also activities in underwater systems in this region. The Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center operates a fleet of underwater robots, and researchers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City also work with underwater and surface robot vessels. Eglin recently put out a request for companies to develop robots that can help it recover air-delivered test weapons that end up on the Gulf of Mexico.

On top of all that, the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., does research in human and machine interaction, certainly an important part of UAVs. This region seems a natural for having one of those six FAA sites.

The problem for the Gulf Coast region is that each state that has a piece of this region is likely to make separate pitches, and perhaps for other areas of their state. Florida’s Space Florida, for instance, is expected to pitch the area around Kennedy Space Center, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Is anyone watching out for the Gulf Coast region?

Some good news came down the pike during the week for Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 training center. Flight restrictions have been lifted on the F-35B, the Marine Corps version of the stealth fighter. That cleared the way for testing and training flights to resume after a nearly month-long grounding.

But officials say more work still needs to be done on the manufacturing issues blamed for the grounding. All 25 F-35Bs were grounded Jan. 18 after a fuel line detached just before a training flight at Eglin on Jan. 16. The Pentagon later said the issue stemmed from a manufacturing defect, not maintenance or design issues. (Post)

-- United Technologies Corp., Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $65 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract for the Joint Strike Fighter F135 Propulsion System Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI recurring sustainment, operations, and maintenance efforts.

Efforts include labor and materials required to maintain and repair F135 propulsion systems; sustainment labor consisting of fleet and material management, sustaining engineering, and joint services technical data updates; and material required to support fielded propulsion systems and support equipment after unit and depot activations at production, training, and operational locations. This contract combines purchases for the Marines (69 percent); Air Force (26 percent); and the Navy (5 percent). (Post)

NASA's is getting ready for a new round of tests on the J-2X engine that will help power the agency's Space Launch System. Beginning this month, engineers will conduct a series of tests on the second J-2X development engine, number 10002, on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand to undergo a series of gimbal, or pivot, tests for the first time. NASA already has conducted 34 tests on engine number 10001 and on the J-2X powerpack assembly. The J-2X achieved a full flight-duration firing of 500 seconds in the eighth test. (Post)

-- In another step forward in the SLS program, NASA engineers demonstrated the Orion spacecraft can land safely if one of its three main parachutes fails to inflate during deployment. The test was conducted during the week in Yuma, Ariz., with the parachutes attached to a test article dropped from a plane from 25,000 feet. The test was the eighth parachute engineering development drop test, with the next slated for May.

The system also will be put to the test in 2014 when Orion, the crew capsule for the SLS, makes its first flight test. The uncrewed capsule will travel 3,600 miles from Earth. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in the Space Launch System program. (Post)

-- NASA for years has pointed out how space technology has made its way into commercial products. The latest issue of Spinoff 2012 illustrates more of the same. It includes details
about a plant that texts a farmer to say it needs more water; an invisible coating that scrubs pollutants from the air; a robot that roams a hospital's halls, aiding doctors and nurses by recording vital signs. NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., was involved in developing the coatings. (Post)

At Hurlburt Field, Fla., Air Force Special Operations Command will be required to implement spending cuts that will have substantial impact on its mission if sequestration takes effect March 1. The command has undertaken several near-term actions to save money such as implementing a temporary civilian hiring freeze, releasing non-mission critical term and temporary employees, cancelling non-mission critical travel, limiting supply purchases, reducing service contracts, postponing non-emergency facility sustainment, curtailing flying not directly related to readiness, and reviewing Overseas Contingency Operation requirements. (Post)

-- At a ceremony early in the week, the Air Force dissolved the Special Operations Training Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and rolled its mission into the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center. The new center will combine training and education with weapons testing and evaluation, as well as preparing airmen to deploy for counter-insurgency operations.

The Air Warfare Center will oversee the missions of all the units that fell under the former training center at Hurlburt, and add the 919th Air Reserves Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Fla., and two Air Guard units in Mississippi and Alabama. Headquarters for the Air Warfare Center will be at Hurlburt Field, with operating locations at Duke Field and Robins Air Force Base, Ga. About 850 active-duty and 900 reserve airmen will fall under the center's command. (Post)

-- Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77, VAW-77, will be ceremonially disbanded next month. Its six E-2C Hawkeye airplanes and many of its personnel already have been redistributed elsewhere in the U.S. Navy’s fleet. Its aircrews made their last flights out of the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse late last month.

The Navy Reserve aviation squadron is credited with saving more than 1,840 New Orleans-area residents during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The squadron’s disestablishment ceremony is March 9 at the air station. (Post)

-- Community leaders recently attended a briefing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., about the future arrival of an additional F-22 Raptor squadron. The F-22s are coming from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The base handled two different tours by two different groups in a few days. (Post)

Here are a few corporate items of high interest to the Gulf Coast region:

American Airlines and US Airways are merging, paving the way for the creation of the nation’s largest airline. The deal is valued at $11 billion. Under the terms of the deal, US Airways shareholders would own 28 percent of the combined airline, while American Airlines shareholders, creditors, labor unions and employees would own 72 percent. The larger company will operated under the American Airlines name, with headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Both airlines serve New Orleans, Gulfport, Mobile, Pensacola and Eglin. (Post)

-- In Italy, Finmeccanica SpA's board replaced Giuseppe Orsi as chief executive of the Italian aero-defense group after his arrest in a bribery probe, naming the company's chief operating officer in his place. Finmeccanica said Alessandro Pansa will replace Orsi and take on the added responsibilities of chairman although he won't officially hold that title. Pansa will remain chief operating officer. Finmeccanica's Selex Galileo has operations in Kiln, Miss., and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where the company's DRS also has an operation. (Story)

-- Rolls-Royce announced during the week that Ian Davis will succeed Sir Simon Robertson as chairman of the global power systems company. He'll join the board as a non-executive director on March 1, 2013 and take over from Robertson at the conclusion of the annual general meeting on May 2, 2013. Rolls-Royce has a naval propeller foundry in Pascagoula, Miss., and an engine testing facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Press release)

Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Md., was awarded a $24.9 million contract for Air Force Research Lab Scholars Program. This agreement is optional use and allows for decentralized ordering by other AFRL Technical Directorates located in Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, Eglin AFB, Fla., and Rome, N.Y. … Oasis Systems LLC, Lexington, Mass., was awarded a $54.5 million contract modification for technical and acquisition management support services. The location of the performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC/PZZ, Eglin AFB. Fla. … COLSA Corp., Huntville, Ala., was awarded a $54.5 million contract modification for technical and acquisition management support services. The location of performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC/PZZ, Eglin AFB. Fla. … Rolls-Royce was awarded an $83.7 million contract for engines to power 19 V-22 aircraft operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force. The contract, a modification of a prior agreement, includes a total of 38 Rolls-Royce AE 1107C engines. Air Force CV-22s operate out of Hurlburt Field, Fla. … NASA selected Jacobs Technology Inc. of Tullahoma, Tenn., for an engineering, technology and science contract at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Companies that will support Jacobs on this contract include HX5 of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

VT Halter: VT Halter Marine secured a contract to build an articulated tug barge, with an optional second unit, for Bouchard Transportation Co. Construction will begin in April at VT Halter Marine’s Pascagoula facility. (Post)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Week in review (2/3 to 2/9)

A few Airbus-related items; a new protective cage for Fire Scouts unmanned helicopters; an agreement on the price of the latest batch of engines for the F-35; the final mission of a 62-year-old Eglin unit; the wrap up of a key SLS test; and a vice commander's visit to Tyndall were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Airbus chose Hoar Program Management of Birmingham, Ala., to manage design and construction of the $600 million aircraft assembly plant Airbus plans to build in Mobile, Ala. Construction of the plant, which will assemble A320 aircraft at Brookley Aeroplex and employ about 1,000 workers, is expected to begin this summer. The first aircraft will be delivered in 2016. HPM has offices in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, Ala.; Houston, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C. (Post)

Meanwhile, an agreement between Mobile and the state for a nearly one-mile overhaul along Broad Street at the Brookley Aeroplex will go before the city council next week. If endorses, bids will go out Feb. 22 with work likely to begin on April 1 and construction finished by December. Ground breaking for the A320 plant is slated for April. (Story)

-- Bloomberg is reporting that Airbus is developing plans to use standard batteries in its new A350 model instead of the lithium-ion power source that grounded Boeing's 787. That's according to two people familiar with the plans. The 787s were grounded after a fire on a Japan Airlines plane. (Story)

A protective cage to protect electronic components of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has been received by Northrop Grumman. The Faraday cage is produced by Summit Aviation and shields electronic systems from electromagnetic interference.

The MQ-8Cs, which use a Bell 407 airframe, is a larger version of the MQ-8B Fire Scout that's currently serving aboard Navy ships and in Afghanistan. Twenty-eight will be built. Prior to installation on the MQ-8C airframe, integration and testing of the Faraday cages will be done at the Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Pratt & Whitney finalized a contract with the Pentagon for 32 engines for a fifth batch of F-35s, with the company agreeing to lower its price. The agreement was reached after more than a year of negotiations. The Pentagon awarded PW a preliminary $1.12 billion contract for 30 engines in December 2011. PW had an additional $9.5 million added to the preliminary contract in August 2012 for the two extra engines. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- The 62-year-old 728th Air Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., completed its final mission late last month and will have a deactivation ceremony May 17. Air Combat Command early last year was directed to reduce its number of U.S. based Control and Reporting Centers from three to two. The 728th was selected for deactivation because it was not collocated with operational aircraft and live, air-to-air opportunities were limited here, according to a statement released by the Secretary of the Air Force when the closure was announced. For their final mission, the 728th ACS provided communications and data to a four-ship of F-35s from the 33rd Fighter Wing. (Post)

NASA and ATK completed the second in a series of development tests for NASA's Space Launch System booster program late last month at ATK's Promontory, Utah, facility. The avionics and controls test included a hot fire of the fully integrated heritage thrust vector control, the new SLS booster avionics subsystem and new electronic support equipment. The test focused on replacement of heritage test equipment with new electronic support equipment. SLS engines will be tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; the core stage of the SLS and the Orion launch vehicle are built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. (Post)

The Blue Angels flight demonstration team could be impacted by sequestration. Navy
officials say air shows scheduled between April 1 and Sept. 30 would be canceled if the
proposed military spending cuts known as sequestration become reality. Still, the team is continuing to prepare for the 2013 air show season. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

-- To familiarize himself with the newest member of Air Combat Command, Lt. Gen. William Rew, ACC vice commander, recently visited Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Among other things, he visited the 325th Fighter Wing Headquarters and the First Air Force, which ensures the air sovereignty and air defense of  the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. This was the general's initial visit since the transition from Air Education and Training Command to ACC, which occurred on Oct. 1, 2012. (Post)

-- A delegation of four Pakistani military officers toured the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., recently for a familiarization trip and visit with students from Pakistan. Each year up to 125 students from 94 countries attend NAVSCOLEOD and are held to the same curriculum standards as their U.S. counterparts. NAVSCOLEOD at Eglin provides high-risk, specialized, basic and advanced EOD training to more than 2,100 U.S. and partner nation military and selected U.S. government personnel each year. (Post)

-- A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday for the Keesler Medical Center’s new Back Bay Tower at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The tower contains state-of-the art medical and surgical inpatient wards, intensive care and much more. Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum, 81st Medical Group commander, also announced that the Keesler Hospital has been officially re-designated Keesler Medical Center. (Post)

L-3 Communications Corp., Madison, Miss., was awarded a $57.1 million contract to provide Life-Cycle Contractor Support maintenance for the Army's fleet of C-12, RC-12 and UC-35 fixed-wing aircraft. Work will be performed in Madison, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Jan. 31, 2014. … B3H, Shalimar, Fla., was among five companies awarded a $7.8 million contract for advisory and assistance services for all multiple skill sets and tasks in support of Air Mobility Command and tenant units. The primary location of the performance is Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

: Huntington Ingalls Industries will open an office in Houston to help market its closing Avondale shipyard. The company is pursuing opportunities in the energy infrastructure market for the yard. The 268-acre facility has the potential to employ up to 10,000 highly skilled craft workers, the company said. HII owns Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Week in review (1/27 to 2/2)

Plans for a new hangar at Bob Sikes airport in Crestview; a decision soon on whether ST Aerospace will set up an operation in Pensacola; changes in leadership at two airports; the retirements of the leader of a museum foundation and the long-time head of Lockheed Martin's F-35 program; a decision to build the Dream Chaser spacecraft in New Orleans; and the pending return to flight of the F-35B were among the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

A Pensacola developer wants to build a huge hangar at Crestview's Bob Sikes Airport to attract an aerospace company. Dan Gilmore, owner of RONDAN Investments, will lease land from the county to build a 137,000-square-foot hangar. He says he’s certain an aerospace company will lease it.

Mike Stenson, deputy airport director, said he gets calls all the time from large aerospace companies interested in a presence at Bob Sikes, and the number one question is if there's available hangar space. Right now the answer is no.

Stenson said the planned hangar would be large enough to hold three C-130s. The general aviation airport has an 8,005-foot runway and is 1,020 acres. The 360-acre Okaloosa-Crestview Industrial Airpark is nearby. (Post)

-- A decision on Singapore-based ST Aerospace's proposed expansion is near, according to a Pensacola News Journal columnist. Greater Pensacola Chamber CEO Jim Hizer told his board recently that the project would be a game-changer for Pensacola's plans to develop an aerospace industrial park at Pensacola International Airport.

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward told the board that the Florida Department of Transportation offered $14 million for property acquisition at the airport to land the company, which provides maintenance services. Hayward said he spoke with a top ST executive recently at the company's Mobile, Ala., headquarters and word should come soon. (Post)

Speaking of Pensacola's airport, that facility will be getting a new director in May. It's Greg Donovan, currently head of the airport system in Okaloosa County, which includes Northwest Florida Regional Airport, the Destin Airport and Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview.

Donovan is no stranger to the airport. He was the assistant director of the Pensacola airport for seven years prior to taking the job in Okaloosa County. Donovan, who lives in Gulf Breeze, will be taking over the most active airport in Northwest Florida. Its closest competitors are Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base and Alabama’s Mobile Regional Airport.

Airport officials in Pensacola hope to extend runway 17/35 from the current 7,000 feet to 8,500 feet to accommodate larger aircraft. Also in the works is a 65-acre commerce park at the airport's northwest quadrant. (Post)

-- While we’re discussing personnel changes, Gerald Hoewing, a retired Navy vice admiral, announced during the week that he plans to step down as president and chief executive of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. That's the organization that manages and provides financial support for the National Museum of Naval Aviation and National Flight Academy, both at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Hoewing, 63, will step down in May. (Post)

-- OK, another personnel change. The head of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program plans to retire, ending a decade-plus run in charge of the program. Tom Burbage will step down from his role at the end of March, Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert confirmed to Defense News. The news was initially reported by Aviation Week. Nothing has been announced on his replacement. (Post)

Anything on the F-35 is of high interest in this region since Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center. So here are a couple of other items that moved during the week.

A fuel line issue that grounded F-35Bs has been isolated and the jets will resume flights soon. The investigation determined the fueldraulic line, which uses fuel rather than hydraulic fluid to move the actuator for the exhaust system, was improperly crimped, officials said.

The short-takeoff and landing variant of the F-35 was grounded after a Jan. 16 test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The conventional and carrier variants were not affected. (Post)

-- Assembly of the 100th Lockheed Martin F-35 is under way at the production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. F-35 technicians are in the final phase of building the wings that will be installed on the 100th aircraft known as AF-41.

AF-41, a conventional takeoff and landing variant, is one of 88 F-35s in various stages of completion on Lockheed Martin production lines Fort Worth and Marietta, Ga., as well as supplier locations worldwide. The jet will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., for pilot training. (Post)

Air Force Reserve Command officials are moving forward with force structure changes
authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013. Among other things, the legislation authorizes new Air Force Reserve intelligence squadrons at four installations, including Hurlburt Field, Fla. (Post)

-- If you see a lot of boats in Choctawhatchee Bay near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., early this month, they may be targets for Eglin Air Force Base jets. Starting Tuesday, the 96th Operations Group will be using about 30 boats as targets for F-15s and F-16s, but no weapons will be used. Similar operations will be conducted again the week of Feb. 11-15. Operations the week of Feb. 11 will also be conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Destin. (Post)

Lockheed Martin has joined Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser team. The partnership will leverage Lockheed Martin's expertise in human spaceflight and composite aerospace structures. Lockheed Martin will assemble the composite structure for the first space-bound Dream Chaser vehicle at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Sierra Nevada is developing the Dream Chaser spacecraft under NASA's commercial crew program, vying to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA is turning to the private sector for human transportation to low Earth orbit now that the space shuttle is retired.

Plans are to launch the spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. (Post)

-- NASA is balking at plans by Space Florida to build a new commercial launch pad near Kennedy Space Center. The Orlando Sentinel reports that state officials in Tallahassee and Washington are rushing to persuade the agency to change its mind.
SpaceX of California is considering several locations for its next launch pad. Texas has an early edge, but Georgia, Puerto Rico and Florida are in the running as well. The proposed Florida site is the abandoned town of Shiloh to the north of Kennedy Space Center.

The state wants to convert 150 acres of that property into a spaceport with two launch pads far enough from KSC and Cape Canaveral that rockets could be launched without having to schedule missions between ones flown by NASA and the Air Force. NASA says the land is not considered excess and it's needed as a buffer zone, and might be used by NASA in the future.

NASA, by the way, is protective of its buffer zones. It has a big one around Stennis Space Center, Miss. Maintaining the buffer zone has allowed the space agency to use SSC to test the largest of rocket engines. (Story)

-- NASA chose nine universities last month to share $2.25 million in research funds to work on projects for the Space Launch System. The nine includes Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Auburn University and the University of Florida. Part of the rocket will be built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and the engines will be tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Story)

Florida's Great Northwest has added to its website a 72-page book profiling nearly two dozen aerospace operations in Northwest Florida and two in Alabama. Each activity has a two-page briefing paper that includes an overview, contact information and interesting facts. Activities highlighted range from the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion in Tallahassee to the National Flight Academy in Pensacola and much more. Because Airbus will have such an impact on this region when it sets up its A320 production line in Mobile, Ala., briefing papers on Airbus and Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex are included in the book.

OK, a disclosure here. Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor did the research and compiled the information for the publication, so I may be a bit partial about the value of the work. But it's a free download, so checking it out will cost you nothing. To download the PDF, click here.

While on the topic of books, let me remind you that another book on the broader aerospace region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida is also available for free. It provides an overview on the major aerospace activities in the region, from space to unmanned systems and more. Researched and written by the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League, the third edition of this book will be available in July. The download is free thanks to the support of underwriters. Oh yes, the disclosure. I'm one of the authors. To download the 86-page PDF, click here.

Zumwalt: The Navy is looking at building an alternative deckhouse for DDG-1002, the final proposed Zumwalt-class destroyer. The current Zumwalt deckhouse is constructed of composite materials at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss. In a Jan. 3 solicitation the Navy said it has a potential requirement for a steel deckhouse. The solicitation comes as the Navy and Ingalls have begun negotiations on building the ship’s deckhouse. (Post)