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.
HII: 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)