Saturday, March 23, 2013

Week in review (3/17 to 3/23)

A cutting-edge 3-D printed part is used on a rocket engine tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Airbus fills its first position for the Mobile, Ala., operation; Boeing increases its footprint in South Carolina; a federal contract tower at Brookley Aeoplex is saved from the chopping block; and South Mississippi learns that 10 C-130Js at Keesler Air Force Base will be leaving were just some of the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region that moved during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Not surprisingly, the latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is finding its way into space exploration. First there was friction stir welding on NASA's Orion crew capsule. Now Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., prime contractor for the J-2X engine, has used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting to create an exhaust port cover for the engine.

SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine's turbo pumps. On March 7, this part was exposed to the strenuous conditions of a rocket engine firing during a test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss., and will be a part of the rest of this test series.

The J-2X will be the propulsion system for the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Post)

-- NASA during the week signed a one-year contract option with Jacobs Technology Inc., to continue manufacturing support and facilities operations at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The contract will support critical operations under way at Michoud to advance the nation's human spaceflight endeavors, including work on the Orion spacecraft and modifications to manufacture the core stage of NASA's SLS. (Post)

Airbus landed a $24 billion order for 234 A320s from Indonesia's Lion Air Group during the week. Lion Air's Airbus order exceeds the order that the Indonesian carrier placed with Boeing in 2011 for 201 planes valued at $22 billion.

Any order for A320s is of high interest to Mobile, Ala., which will break ground April 8 on its $600 million final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex. The bigger the backlog of orders, the more work for all Airbus’ A320 assembly lines. (Post)

By the way, the tower at Brookley was saved from the budget ax during the week. The story can be found below under the section about airports.

Speaking of the Mobile operation, Airbus Americas filled its first position related to the Brookley site. The company hired Jennifer Ogle, 49, as the new director of human resources. Ogle come to Airbus from Taylor-Wharton Cryogenics in Theodore, Ala., where she has been the human resources director since July 2011. She’ll join Airbus on April 15. Hiring for manufacturing jobs at the assembly line will begin during the fourth quarter of 2013 and continue into 2014. (Post)

-- American Airlines will equip all of its A320s with Airbus' Runway Overrun Prevention System technology. This on-board cockpit technology, which Airbus pioneered over several years, increases pilots' situational awareness during landing, reduces exposure to runway excursion risk, and if necessary, provides active protection. ROPS is in service or ordered on around 70 per cent of the A380 fleet. ROPS is part of the A350 XWB's basic configuration and is also being applied on the other Airbus types being produced today, starting with the A320 Family, with certification on this type expected later this year. (Post)

This bit of news is likely to make Boeing workers in Washington a bit uneasy. Boeing will pay $12.5 million for about 320 acres of land near its current 787 Dreamliner final assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C.

Boeing doesn't have specific plans, but the purchase, which still needs FAA approval, will provide land for possible future use. Boeing South Carolina performs final assembly for the 787 Dreamliner, currently grounded because of battery problems. The South Carolina facility also makes aft and mid-body sections for the 787.

A deal Boeing signed in December provides Boeing the option to buy 750 more acres in several parcels, including the 260 acres it sits on, currently leased for $1 a year from Charleston International Airport. If it exercises the option, by 2025 Boeing could own almost 1,100 acres, a near quadrupling in size. (Post)

The land could be used for a facility to assemble the planned 787-10, or a successor to the 737 series of jets that would be made mostly of composites, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Charleston has emerged as a center of composites manufacturing within the Boeing company. It's where the company fabricates the 787 rear fuselage sections and assembles the fuselage mid-bodies.

When the aviation authority first approved the concept of a purchase in January, Elliott Summey, vice chair of the Charleston County Council, said the purchase plan was promising. "In my mind, we're excited they chose Charleston a couple of years ago as one of their homes … On the pure possibility they may do something else, we're happy to sell them the property,” he said. (Story)

One of the "something else" possibilities that likely has Washington state concerned is where the upgraded Boeing 777 will be built. Boeing has promised to start delivering the first 777Xs, with new composite wings and engines, before 2020. It's already picked GE Aviation to supply the engines. (Story)

Federal contract towers at Stennis International Airport in Kiln, Miss., Hawkins Field in
Jackson, Miss., and Dothan, Ala., are among 149 that will close beginning April 7 as part of a sequestration plan.

But the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to keep open 24 towers that were previously proposed for closing because it would have a "negative impact on national interest." The 24 towers saved from the chopping block include towers at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala., Meridian, Miss., and Columbus/Starkville, Miss.

Another 16 federal contract towers under the "cost share" program will remain open because Congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers. These cost-share program funds are subject to sequestration but the required 5 percent cut will not result in tower closures. (Post)

-- Miracle Strip Aviation, one of two fixed-base operators at Florida's Destin Airport, agreed to a plan that would settle its $485,000 debt with the county by 2019. Under the plan, Miracle Strip Aviation, recently purchased by Mississippi-based Regal Capital, would pay the county $150,000 upfront, make $100,000 in major renovations to the county-owned terminal at Destin Airport and repay the remaining $235,382 at 4 percent interest over six years. Miracle Strip Aviation amassed the $485,382 debt because of an error in the county’s billing system. The company was billed for an amount lower than the actual lease payment. (Post)

-- Bob Sikes Airport's fixed-base operator anticipates breaking ground on a $600,000 terminal in Crestview, Fla., by April. Emerald Coast Aviation recently sent the project out to bid. The terminal will replace a small facility that Emerald Coast Aviation and Sunshine Aero, its predecessor, have used for decades. The 5,600-square-foot, single-story building will house a reception area, offices, a lounge with a fireplace, a pilots' "snooze room" with shower, a conference room and an outdoor enclosed courtyard overlooking the airport. (Post)

The Air Force Reserve Command decided that 10 C-130Js from Keesler Air Force Base will transfer to Pope Field, N.C., and the 815th Airlift Squadron will shut down. A press release from Keesler said the base will lose the aircraft in October. The 815th "Flying Jennies," a tactical airlift unit that has been at Keesler since 1973, is responsible for delivering cargo to combat zones and provides humanitarian relief in disaster areas. (Post)

-- The Blue Angels are back at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., after wintering in El Centro, Calif. There remains a lot of uncertainty over the Blue Angels shows this season. The Navy has canceled four show in April. The sequestration cuts for the Navy requires cancelation of all appearances through the end of the federal fiscal year. This includes the July Pensacola Air Show. (Post)

-- A report released by a ground accident investigation board shows an Air Force officer was struck and killed by a government-contracted boat in October while participating in a one-man life raft training exercise near Pensacola, Fla. Maj. Garrett Knowlan was killed when he was struck by a 41-foot tow boat involved in the Air Force Water Survival Training Course. Knowlan was executive officer for the commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- Brig. Gen. Jack L. Briggs II, deputy commander, Canadian North American Aerospace
Defense Region, and deputy commander for Operations, 1st Air Division, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to vice commander, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern), Air Combat Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

Lockheed Martin named Lorraine Martin its new leader for the F-35 program. Martin, 50, replaces her former boss, Orlando Carvalho, 54, who becomes executive vice president in charge of the aeronautics business. From 2004-08, Martin was VP of flight solutions, simulation and support for aircrew training programs for the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

EDO Corp., Panama City, Fla., was awarded an $11 million contract to build one MK-105 Mod 4 Magnetic Minesweeping System for the Airborne Mine Countermeasures Program. Work will be done in Panama City. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. … H2 Performance Consulting of Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a five-year, $4 million contract to provide the Navy Manpower Personnel Training and Education with support for its Authoritative Data Environment.

Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries plans to hire about 3,000 people for its Pascagoula, Miss., facility over the next 12 months to fulfill existing ship orders. A job fair was held late in the week in Prichard, Ala., to help fill those positions. (Post)

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