Saturday, March 2, 2013

Week in review (2/24 to 3/2)

Before we get to the week in review, just a quick sidebar. It's likely that people who read this column or subscribe to the daily Gulf Coast Aerospace News are also interested in aerospace activities in other "neighborhoods" of the Southeast. So we got to thinking.

Last summer an associate began tracking aerospace and defense news from Alabama's Huntsville-Decatur region. Like the Gulf Coast feed, Huntsville Region Aerospace and Defense monitors a host of sources to present a daily summary of activities.

A Huntsville feed made sense. It's home to the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and what happens there is of high interest to Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It's also home to the Army's Aviation and Missile Command and hundreds of companies, many with operations in the Gulf Coast.

Huntsville Region Aerospace and Defense covers a range of topics, including DoD and NASA contracts. It's available free through a reader, at the blog or through daily e-mail updates to your inbox. Give it a try by clicking here.

Now for the week in review:

The Pentagon said on Thursday it would resume flights of its F-35 following a week-long
precautionary grounding imposed after a crack was found on an engine blade on a test
plane in California.

No additional cracks were found during inspections of engines on the remaining 50 planes in the Pentagon's fleet, or any spare engines. The conclusion was the crack was caused from overuse in test operations.

It was the program's second engine-related flight ban in less than two months. The Marines Corps version of the plane was grounded for a month from mid-January because of a faulty hose in the engine, later blamed on manufacturing errors.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $333.8 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, materials and components required for the delivery of the 35 Low Rate Initial Production lot VIII F-35 aircraft.

That includes 19 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft for the U.S. Air Force; six short takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps; four Carrier Variant aircraft for the U.S. Navy; four STOVL for the United Kingdom; and two CTOL aircraft for the government of Norway.

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Air Force (46 percent); the U.S. Marine Corps (26 percent); and the U.S. Navy (8 percent); the United Kingdom (14 percent); and Norway (6 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. (Post)

Airbus met with potential suppliers at a gathering Wednesday in Mobile, Ala., where the company will build a $600 million A320 assembly line. David Williams, vice president of procurement for Airbus Americas, told a crowd of nearly 1,000 gathered for the supplier briefing that the Mobile facility will help the company with its globalization strategy by bringing production directly to one of its strongest markets.

Williams said the procurement process for the Mobile facility is "moving along quickly, as it should be," but a strict protocol must be followed to be considered. Interested suppliers should visit the Airbus Alabama website, send a "request for information" where prompted and any company that takes those steps is included in a broad database. (Post)

Military cuts
Politico reports that the Defense Department plans to ask Congress for two new military base closure rounds, one in 2015 and the other in 2017. The Pentagon made the same request last year, but it went nowhere. Only Congress can authorize a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

Critics say closing bases does not produce immediate savings and costs more upfront. The 2005 BRAC was not completed until the fall of 2011. For example, the Naval Medical Research Laboratory at Naval Air Station Pensacola was realigned in the 2005 BRAC, and only last year was it moved to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Post)

The White House last weekend released state-by-state reports on the impact it says the sequester would have. Congress failed to act by Friday, and President Barack Obama signed an order authorizing the government to begin cutting $85 billion from federal accounts across the board.

The government says the reductions will result in furlough notices to government employees and will trim government spending on defense contracts and in domestic government programs.

The state-by-state report released last weekend showed the impact on military readiness in the four states with a piece of the I-10 aerospace corridor would be 74,000 civilian Defense Department employees furloughed in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, reducing gross pay by around $445.9 million in the four states. The total cut in funding for the military operations in all four states is $336.8 million. (Post)

NASA commercial partner Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., successfully conducted an engine test of its Antares rocket late last week at the nation's newest launch pad on Wallops Island, Va.

The company fired dual AJ26 rocket engines for the full duration 29 seconds while the rocket was bolted down on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

Known as a "hot fire" test, it demonstrated the readiness of the rocket's first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support upcoming test flights. Aerojet tests AJ26 engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft program was recently awarded the 2012 Dr. James G. Roche Sustainment Excellence Award for the most improved performance in aircraft maintenance and logistics readiness.

Capable of flying for more than 30 hours at an altitude over 60,000 feet, Global Hawk provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications relay capabilities.

It's accumulating more than 88,000 total flight hours, 80 percent in combat. A total of 37 Global Hawks have been delivered to the Air Force, with additional aircraft scheduled for delivery this year. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Coast Guard
A memorial to the four crewmembers of a Coast Guard MH-65C helicopter that crashed last year in Mobile Bay was dedicated Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard's Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.

Hundreds turned out for the private ceremony honoring the crew of CG-6535, which crashed after a training mission. Honored were pilot Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, co-pilot Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron, rescue swimmer Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, and flight mechanic Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew "Drew" Knight. (Post)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded an $8 million contract modification for aircraft flightline maintenance for the F-16 aircraft in support of Taiwan's F-16 program.

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