Saturday, April 27, 2013

Week in review (4/21 to 4/27)

A company with ties to the Gulf Coast has a successful rocket launch; a new chapter of J-2X testing begins at Stennis Space Center; a possible $9 billion order for 60 F-35s; a new hotel opens on airport property in Pensacola; the airport near Panama City agrees to an economic-loss settlement with BP; and the retirement of the 2nd Air Force vice commander at Keesler Air Force Base were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

The 133-foot tall Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences launched Sunday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport adjacent to NASA's Wallops Island Flight Center. Orbital hopes to have a demonstration flight in June or July using a Cygnus cargo capsule that will carry about a ton of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

Orbital is the second  company on its way to resupplying the ISS. SpaceX was the first commercial company to successfully resupply ISS. The addition of Antares bodes well for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, established in 2006 with the retirement of the space shuttle. AJ26 engines that power the first stage of Antares are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reassured lawmakers during the week that the agency isn't foot-dragging on developing a rocket to take astronauts into deep space. He told members of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding that the 70 metric-ton vehicle is on schedule, on target and on cost.

NASA is asking for $17.7 billion for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. That includes $2.73 billion to develop the Space Launch System (SLS) consisting of an Orion multi-purpose crewed vehicle and the deep-space rocket that will carry it. SLS rocket engines are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss; Orion is built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, which will also build the core stage of SLS. (Post)

- Speaking of Bolden, he presented contractor awards during the week. One went to A2Research of Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year. Another went to Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of East Hartford, Conn., the Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year. Both have operations at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- Engineers developing NASA's next-gen rocket closed one chapter of testing with the completion of a J-2X engine test series on the A-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Now the new chapter of full motion testing on test stand A-1 has begun.

The Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne J-2X will drive the second stage of the 143-ton heavy-lift version of the Space Launch System. The rocket will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration and send humans in NASA's Orion spacecraft into deep space.

J-2X engine 10002 was fired for the last time on the A-2 test stand April 17. This engine set a duration record for J-2X engine firings at the A-2 stand on April 4 when it fired for 570 seconds, beating the previous mark set less than a month earlier on March 7, when the same engine ran for 560 seconds.

This is the second J-2X engine Stennis has test fired. Last year the first developmental J-2X engine, called 10001, was tested. According to J-2X managers, both performed well. When the engine is eventually used in space, it will need to be able to move to help steer the rocket. (Post)

The initial single-stage, 70-metric-ton SLS configuration will use two 5-segment solid rocket boosters similar to the boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit - RS-25 engines. The evolved 143-ton (130-metric-ton) SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with more thrust than any existing U.S. liquid- or solid-fueled boosters. Companies selected for Advanced Booster contracts are ATK Launch Systems Inc. of Brigham City, Utah, Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif.

While on the subject of engines, but these more Earth-bound, Rolls-Royce reached agreement to sell its interests in the RTM322 helicopter engine program to Turbomeca, a Safran company. Rolls-Royce's 50 percent interest in the engine program will be progressively transferred to Turbomeca, which will then hold 100 percent of the RTM322 program.

The RTM322 engine powers the Apache, EH101 Merlin and NH90 helicopters. The sale is expected to complete before year end, subject to closing conditions. Rolls-Royce has its outdoor jet engine test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Safran has opened an engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

- Rolls-Royce won a $1.6 billion order from International Airlines Group (IAG) for Trent XWB engines to power 18 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. In addition, IAG has placed options for a further 18 A350 aircraft.

The engine, specifically designed for the A350 XWB, is the fastest selling Trent engine ever with more than 1,200 sold. Rolls-Royce Outdoor Jet Engine Test Facility at Stennis Space Center tests the Trent series of Rolls-Royce engines, including the XWB; the thrust reverser for the XWB was built by Goodrich, since purchased by United Technologies. It has a service center in Foley, Ala; Airbus will be building A320 jetliners in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Lockheed Martin may get a U.S. order in June for 60 F-35 jets, consolidating the sixth and seven production contracts. The contract may be valued at about $9 billion. The number of F-35s may rise to as many as 71 if orders from other nations are included.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, manager of the Pentagon’s F-35 program, has given a generally upbeat assessment of the F-35's progress. Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, said he feels "much more comfortable" about the F-35 program than he did a year and a half ago. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

- The Northrop Grumman Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) waveform was successfully demonstrated in a Lockheed Martin F-35 flight test, validating an eight-year development effort. MADL is a key capability provided by Northrop Grumman's F-35 integrated communications, navigation and identification (CNI) avionics. Northrop Grumman's integrated CNI system provides to F-35 pilots the equivalent capability of more than 27 avionics subsystems. Northrop Grumman also produces the center fuselage for the F-35; designed and produces the aircraft's radar and electro-optical subsystem; develops mission systems and mission planning software; leads the team's development of pilot and maintenance training system courseware; and manages the team's use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies. The F-35 training center is at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

- OK, these aren't F-35s, but they are aircraft. In Panama City, Fla., two F-101 Voodoo jets are being removed from their display perches at the city marina and Gulf Coast State College. There was a ceremony during the week to mark the occasion. The jets will be disassembled and taken by the U.S. Air Force to a temporary storage location. The jets are being moved to make way for redevelopment and because of the cost of ongoing maintenance. (Post)

More than 200 people showed up for the grand opening of the new Hyatt Place Hotel Pensacola Airport during the week. The 127-room hotel is adjacent to the airport on land leased through a long-term contract. "Having this premier hotel at our international airport is a distinct advantage for our business and leisure travelers," said Airport Director Greg Donovan. The hotel interior is themed around the city's Five Flags history and extensive aviation past. It's the 18th Hyatt Place branded property in Florida. (Post)

- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla., accepted a $5.98 million economic-loss settlement from BP in connection with the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Airport Attorney Franklin Harrison expects ECP to receive the check no later than May 1. (Post)

China Aviation Supplies Holding Co. signed a deal with Airbus for 60 aircraft, a $7.7 billion deal that includes 18 wide-body A330s and 42 single-aisle A320s. The A320's high reliability and low operational cost has appealed to Chinese airlines, while the A330 offers a solution to airport congestion in large Chinese cities as larger planes can carry more passengers with fewer flights, said Fabrice Bregier, president and chief executive officer of Airbus. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

At Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Col. Andrew Cain, 2nd Air Force vice commander, retired with 30 years of military service Friday at the Bay Breeze Event Center. Maj. Gen. Len Patrick, 2nd Air Force commander, was the presiding officer for the event. (Post)

- The Air Force will trim 16,000 civilian employees from its ranks, but only a few will come from Tyndall Air Force Base. Herman Bell, chief of Tyndall's 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, said there are about 14 civilian employees that may be impacted. The Defense Department announced the civilian force at about 60 Air Force installations would be impacted by a reduction in force. (Post)

- Air Force Special Operations Command is hosting a field exercise to train forces in combat scenarios through May 3. Training events will take place in parts of Liberty, Calhoun, Franklin, as well as Bay County airspace. Most of the exercises will take place at night. In addition to hearing aircraft noise at night, residents may also hear simulated munitions fire. (Post)

OK, this is from outside the region, but it should be of interest to those of you who hope this region gets one of the six FAA drone test sites. A consortium of Washington-based organizations will soon submit the final section of a proposal to site an unmanned aircraft system research and testing facility in central Washington.

Innovate Washington, the lead agency of the state of Washington focused on fostering growth of the state's innovation sectors, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, are working with ten other state, county and private industry partners to be selected as one of six locations to conduct research that will accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

The coalition wants to create the Pacific Northwest Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center at the Grant County International Airport, the former Larson Air Force Base that's been used by the military and Boeing for flight training and testing. Coalition members also include the ports of Moses Lake and Grays Harbor, Washington State University, University of Washington, Washington Army National Guard, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing at Everett Community College, the governor's Office of Aerospace, the state Department of Commerce, and economic development agencies in Klickitat and Grays Harbor counties.

The FAA is expected to pick six sites by the end of the year. (Story)

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Aerospace Systems Sector, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $35.7 million contract modification for Global Hawk engineering and manufacturing development. Work will be performed at San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by January 2017. Fuselage work on Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss.

Contract: CACI Technologies Inc., Chantilly, Va., was awarded a $20.1 million modification to previously awarded contract for professional support services in support of Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships. Less than 2 percent of the work will be done in Panama City, Fla. Most will be done in Washington D.C. (Post)
GCRL: The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss., is growing. Near-term plans call for opening an 8,300-square-foot, four-classroom and lab addition in May and long-term plans call for erecting an $18 million Marine Education Center, the education and outreach arm of the lab. (Post)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Week in review (4/14 to 4/20)

The final public reunion of the Doolittle Raiders; another Airbus supplier picks Mobile and another Mobile company joins the Airbus project; the selection of a new president for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce; new restrictions for using unmanned aerial systems in Florida; and the final mission of Combat Talons I’s were among the aerospace news items of interest to the region that moved during the week.

Here's the week in review:

It's sad to think that this past week's 71st reunion of the Doolittle Raiders in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., will be the last public get-together. There are four of the heroes left of the original 80, and the next time they get together will be in private to open a bottle of Hennessy cognac for a final toast.

On April 18, 1942, the men took off in B-25s from the USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo. They learned how to conduct short takeoffs in stripped down B-25s during three weeks of intensive training at Florida's Eglin Field, today's massive Eglin Air Force Base.

Dropping bombs on Japan just four months after Pearl Harbor was designed to boost U.S. morale and send a message to Japan and the world. But the planes had to launch early, and it was clear reaching China would be nearly impossible. But they left anyway, which may have been an even bigger message about U.S. resolve and determination.

This past week at a hangar at Eglin Air Force Base, an modern F-35 lined up facing a World War II-era B-25. The hangar was dedicated to retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, a maintenance crew chief for one of the 16 crews that participated in the raid. (Post)

At a luncheon held at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach, Rear Adm. Don Quinn, commander, Naval Education and Training Command in nearby Pensacola, Fla., addressed more than 600 people who had come to honor the remaining Raiders.

The Raiders present included Lt. Col. Richard Cole, co-pilot with Col. Jimmy Doolittle; Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, an engineer and gunner on crew 7; and Saylor, engineer for crew 15. The fourth Raider who was unable to attend is Lt. Col. Robert Hite, co-pilot of crew 16. (Post)

For a story on the Raiders’ visit with today’s Air Commandos at Hurlburt Field, Fla., click here.

Kuehne + Nagel North America is opening an office in Mobile, Ala., the second Airbus-related supplier for the Alabama port city. The world's largest logistic company is the principal logistical supplier for Airbus in Hamburg, Germany. The Mobile office will offer logistics to companies from the aerospace industry and the oil and gas and marine sectors. Airbus broke ground April 8 on its A320 final production line at Brookley Aeroplex. The first supplier, Safran Engineering Services, opened its Brookley office before the Airbus groundbreaking. (Post)

Meanwhile, Mobile-based Hargrove Engineers and Contractors has been chosen by Hoar Program Management to assist with the Airbus final assembly line at Brookley. It will work alongside Frankfurt Short Bruza Associates P.C. to provide architectural and engineering services for the $600 million project's flight line, final phase, gauging hangar and delivery center. The assembly line will employ 1,000. (Post)

While all that is going on, Airbus Americas posted another job opening for the Mobile operation. The company is seeking a facilities manager for the Mobile assembly line. Preference will be given to candidates with a bachelor's and five years' supervisory experience. (Post)

-- More than 80 business leaders are heading to Hamburg, Germany, this weekend to learn more about how the impact an Airbus assembly plant can have on a community. They'll be in Germany by Sunday. Delegates will visit several areas and facilities through April 24. Participants include officers from area banks, engineering and construction firms, shipping concerns, human resource companies, the Port of Alabama and the Mobile Airport Authority, to name a few. (Post)

-- Daimler sold its remaining 7.5 percent stake in EADS to EADS, cutting the vehicle maker's equity ties with the company it helped found. France, Germany and Spain are reducing state interests in EADS, which in March approved a change in shareholder structure. Changes were pushed through after EADS’ attempted merger with BAE Systems failed. Earlier this month French media group Lagardere sold a 7.4 percent EADS stake. (Post)

Leadership changes
Bill Sisson, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, will succeed Win Hallett as president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. The date is not yet firmed up, since it will depend on the airport authority finding a replacement for Sisson. Hallett has held the position for 22 years.

Sisson, who has led the airport authority since 2008, is the former vice president of economic development for the chamber, so he brings to the organization a wealth of institutional knowledge at a time of tremendous change in Mobile.

Chamber Chairman Mike Saxon said Sisson is the right person at the right time. (Post)

Indeed, Sisson's background makes him a good choice for the job. The chamber, which serves an economic development role in Mobile, was a major force behind bringing Airbus to Brookley Aeroplex. And the airport authority operates both Mobile Regional Airpor and Brookley.

Sisson, in short, has been in the thick of it.

"This community is poised for unprecedented growth and prosperity, and I look forward to working again at the chamber to continue the excellent economic and community development that has occurred under Win's leadership," Sisson said.

The test flight of a new private cargo-carrying rocket is slated for late Saturday afternoon. (Late Saturday update: The Saturday launch was canceled because of concerns about upper-level winds. The next attempt will be Sunday) Private aerospace firm Orbital Sciences Corp. wanted to fly the two-stage Antares rocket Wednesday from Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, but a data cable separated from the booster and forced a delay. Orbital then tried for Friday but weather got in the way. The Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines that power Antares are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- NASA expects a slightly reduced civil servant workforce, facility consolidations and less
spending on consultants, according to the agency's proposed 2014 budget. Of the agency’s centers, Stennis Space Center, Miss., which hosts much of the agency’s propulsion testing, would receive the least money, $182 million. SSC, the center with the fewest civil servants, would lose just five positions. (Post)

Florida is the newest state to pass legislation restricting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by local or state agencies except in cooperation with investigations authorized by the Department of Homeland Security or in short-term emergencies. The bill prevents law enforcement use of drones unless a judge has issued a warrant or in cases where there is a "high risk of terrorist attack," or a case of imminent danger, such as in a missing person case where the person is thought to be in immediate danger. (Post)

-- Plans to demonstrate autonomous aerial refueling of the Northrop Grumman X-47B
unmanned combat air system demonstrator have been axed from the Navy's fiscal 2014 budget. Previous plans called for the X-47B to conduct autonomous probe-and-drogue and boom-and-receptacle refueling tests in 2014. Previously, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ended a program to demonstrate autonomous refueling between two Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawks. Northrop Grumman Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

The Air Force's last four MC-130E Combat Talon I's had their final mission from their home at Duke Field, Fla., on April 15. The Talons will be officially retired in a ceremony at Duke Field on April 25 and the aircraft will then be flown to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The four Talons carried more than 40 of the wing's airmen who had a long association with the Talon I's and wanted to be a part of the historic final flight. The retirement of the Talons are part of the 919th Special Operations Wing's transition to the new Aviation Foreign Internal Defense mission. More than five of the wing's new aircraft, the C-145A, are already on the Duke flightline. (Post)

-- The commander at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., said the base will ground planes and reduce training to deal with a 20 percent reduction in its budget caused by sequestration. Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy, commander of the 81st Training Wing, said a third of the fleet will be parked and long-term maintenance on planes will be cut by 18 percent. (Post)

-- In Florida, 10 civilians will be affected by a civilian Reduction in Force, scheduled to go into effect Aug. 23, at Eglin Air Force Base. Of the 10 civilians, seven are assigned to the 96th Test Wing and three to tenant organizations. About 1,000 positions Air Force wide at 60 installations are affected by workforce shaping. (Post)

-- Lt. Col. Matthew "Pipper" Bradley, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron operations director at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., has been selected to be Thunderbird No. 1. Bradley will be joining the team in 2014, the 61st year of the Air Force's flight demonstration team. (Post)

In Alabama, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Pike County Operations is expected to bring in some 100 additional jobs over seven years. The expansion of the Troy, Ala., facility will provide capability to meet anticipated production schedules over the next decade. The expansion would also allow for continued production of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, as well as support for potential new production awards. The plant employs 360 workers. (Post)

L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $45.2 million contract modification to extend FA8I06-IO-C-0012 for 12 months for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force C208 and C172 aircraft and for maintenance students training on both aircraft without a break in service.

Christening: The Navy was scheduled to christen the Joint High Speed Vessel Millinocket Saturday. The 338 foot-long aluminum catamaran is being constructed by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Contract: Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, was awarded a $12.6 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for Littoral Combat Ship Class Design Services. One percent of the work will be done in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

LCS: The Austal-built Littoral Combat Ship Coronado experienced a fire in its starboard diesel exhaust while conducting a high-speed demonstration on its second day of sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. The fire was put out immediately and the Coronado returned to the shipyard. (Post)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week in review (4/7 to 4/13)

The ceremonial groundbreaking for an Airbus assembly line in Mobile, cancelation of the Pensacola-based Blue Angels' 2013 season, new air service for Mobile and New Orleans, the first flight of a UK pilot in an F-35 at Eglin, the possible sale of Global Hawks to South Korea, and progress on an upcoming commercial space mission were among the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Ground was broken early in the week at Brookley Aeroplex for the $600 million Airbus final assembly line. Industry, state and local officials were in town to mark the official start of the plant that will eventually employ 1,000 workers and produce four A320s a month.

"Thanks to Mobile, the sun will never set on Airbus," said Fabrice Bregier, president and CEO of Airbus, which also operates assembly lines in France, Germany and China. Officials from JetBlue, which will take the first delivery of a plane assembled at the Brookley plant, were also on hand for the groundbreaking, as was Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Bentley said the Airbus facility is going to benefit the entire region. No doubt he's right. The area between New Orleans and Northwest Florida has been a player in the aerospace field for years, and it’s grown incrementally. Now there's Airbus, which promises to put it all in high gear. (Post)

One of those who showed up for the groundbreaking was EADS chief executive Tom Enders. He sat down with the Mobile Press-Register's George Talbot for a question and answer session. You can take a look at the interview by clicking here.

On the same day Airbus held its groundbreaking, supplier Safran Engineering Services officially opened its Mobile office with a ribbon-cutting. In Mobile, Safran will provide engineering services for Airbus, including mechanical and electrical engineering work. The company will start with 20 engineers. Jobs are being advertised through the Alabama Industrial Development Training program. (Post)

-- Airbus plans to offer airlines the option of an extra-wide 20-inch seat on its A320 aircraft. Currently the planemaker configures narrow-body jets with three 18-inch wide seats in each row of the economy-class cabin. Under the new concept, two seats would be reduced to 17 inches with the third 20. (Post)

-- American Airlines will split its order for 130 Airbus A320 aircraft equally between the A319 and A321, according to engine supplier International Aero Engines (IAE). American will take 65 A319s with CFM International CFM56-5B engines and 65 A321s with IAE V2500-A5 engines, says Jon Beatty, president and chief executive of IAE. (Post)

-- The Mobile office of Hatch Mott MacDonald is providing aviation and engineering design management for the Airbus final assembly plant at Brookley Aeroplex. Birmingham-based Hoar Program Management, chosen Feb.1 to oversee the Airbus project, said HMM is overseeing all architectural and engineering partners involved with the A320 plant. Based in Millburn, N.J., Hatch Mott MacDonald has a staff of 22 in the Mobile metropolitan area. (Post)

Mobile, Ala., now has direct daily flights to Chicago's O’Hare International Airport after a 10-year absence. Bill Sisson, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, called United's decision to resume daily, nonstop service between Mobile and Chicago "timely" in light of the groundbreaking for a $600 million Airbus assembly line. (Post)

-- Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans is adding a second direct international destination through the summer vacation season, offering flights to Cancun every Sunday from May 26 through Aug. 11. It will serve as the second international route, joining flights that already link New Orleans and Toronto. (Post)

The Navy has canceled all 2013 air shows and practices for the Blue Angles flight demonstration team. Team Cmdr. Tom Frosch expressed hope the team will be back next year. In Pensacola the Blues will fly up to 11 hours a month, just over a quarter of the 40 hours a month they normally fly. It’s a level to keep the pilots safe and efficient. (Post)

-- Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott W. Jansson has been nominated for appointment to the rank of major general. Jansson is currently serving as Air Force program executive officer for weapons and director, Armament Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- The Air Force Research Laboratory will host teams from all three service academies and 17 universities for the Annual AFRL Design Challenge April 15-20 at the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Fla. This year's challenge was to design a system for a team of four Special Operations Force personnel to cross irrigation canals, go rooftop-to-rooftop, cross snow and glacier crevasses, etc., under a variety of conditions. (Post)

The first United Kingdom Royal Navy student aviator at the 33rd Fighter Wing training to be an F-35B instructor pilot completed his first sortie in the joint strike fighter here April 10. Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball flew with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron-501. His preparation included about six weeks of academics and kinetically-based simulators at the F-35 Academic Training Center. The center is the high-tech hub in a campus designed especially for fifth-generation joint strike fighter maintainer and operator training. It is hosted at the 33rd FW. (Post)

The Pentagon told Congress about a plan to sell four Global Hawk surveillance drones to South Korea. The deal under the Foreign Military Sales program, if sealed, would be worth up to $1.2 billion. It includes four RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks equipped with the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suites (EISS), associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support, added the DSCA. Congress is expected to approve the plan. Global Hawks central fuselages are built in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- The Navy plans to conduct the first catapult takeoff of its X-47B unmanned fighter from an aircraft carrier next month and other shipboard tests despite mandatory budget cuts this year, according to Rear Adm. Mathias Winter, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons. He said Northrop Grumman's X-47B program and other unmanned aircraft programs should survive the fiscal 2013 budget cuts largely intact because they are still early in development. But the Navy may buy fewer unmanned planes and helicopters in coming years. (Post)

-- Northrop Grumman received a contract valued at more than $71 million for its Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system from the Air Force. The award is an add-on to a previous Lot 10 contract for block load and production acceptance infrastructure. "This contract modification covers a 22-month period of performance from March 2013 through the end of December 2014, bridging the current Lot 10 contract through completion. It will provide engineering support for the production and final acceptance testing of the Lot 10 aircraft and sensors," said George Guerra, vice president of the Global Hawk program for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Orbital Sciences rolled out the first fully integrated Antares rocket from its assembly building at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia recently in preparation for its inaugural flight April 17 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The Antares test flight is the first of two Orbital is scheduled to conduct in 2013 under its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Space Act Agreement with NASA. Following a successful first launch, Orbital will carry out a full flight demonstration of its new Antares/Cygnus cargo delivery system to the International Space Station around mid-year.

The Antares' Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The latest test was April 4. That engine will be shipped to Wallops for an upcoming Commercial Resupply Services mission. (Post)

-- Radar at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is operating in Space Fence mode to make up for the shut down of a third of the Space Fence radar coverage because of sequestratin. That’s what Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, said during the 29th annual National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

East Coast radar receivers that provide data about satellites and space debris have been turned off as part of an effort to save $508 million from the budget of Shelton’s command. Radar at Eglin is capable of countering that loss of a third of the radars, Shelton said, but doing so takes that radar out of its regular rotation.

Shelton said models show that more than 500,000 man-made objects are in orbit today, with U.S. systems tracking “less than” 5 percent. Most of those objects are too small to be picked up by current sensors, but represent potentially catastrophic dangers to satellites. (Post)

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $65.9 million contract for 2,701 Lot 17 Joint Direct Attack Munition tailkits. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBDKI, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … Raytheon Co., Goleta, Calif. Was awarded a $35.1 million delivery order for AN/ALE-50 towed decoys. Work will be performed at Forest, Miss., and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2015.

Aerospace book
OK, here's a promotional message from yours truly

The Gulf Coast Reporters' League, of which I'm a member, is writing the third edition of the annual Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor. The 90-page reference book highlights the considerable aerospace activities in the Interstate 10 region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida.

There are chapters on the region's space activities, unmanned aerial systems, military aviation, workforce/education, research and development and the region's new role as an international showcase, thanks to Airbus and the F-35. The book will be published June 1.

The League is compiling a list of underwriters so the book can be provided free as an electronic publication or at cost for the printed version. If your organization would like details on how to join others who have already signed up, send me an e-mail or call 850-261-6777.

Offshore: VT Halter Marine launched and christened HOS Commander, the first  of 10 vessels that Covington, La.-based Hornbeck Offshore Services will use to supply deepwater offshore exploration. (Post)
Contract: BAE Systems Electronics Ltd, Maritime Services Division, Portsmouth, U.K., was awarded an $8.3 million modification to previously awarded contract related to the MK-105. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Oceanographers: A modeling capability developed by oceanographers at Stennis Space Center that predicts the likelihood of pirate attacks received an international humanitarian award from Computerworld magazine. (Post)
Composite hangar: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss., achieved a milestone in the construction of the composite hangar that will be used on the Navy's second Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer. (Post)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Week in review (3/31 to 4/6)

Sure, a lot happened during the week in the Gulf Coast aerospace region. One company said it will invest $12 million on a new facility in Dothan, Ala., headway is being made on getting F-35s in the hands of allies, a base in this region won a major Air Force award and plans are progressing to build an indoor unmanned systems center near Eglin Air Force Base.

But let's face it, what's going to happen Monday is what's got everybody's attention. Airbus at 10 a.m. CDT will break ground on its new A320 final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. The two-hour ceremony will be attended by officials from Airbus and its parent, EADS, as well as local, state and national dignitaries.

The 117-acre Airbus campus at Brookley has been characterized by Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor as the eventual epicenter of commercial activity for the company’s American operations. It will have access to two runways and will eventually employ 1,000 highly skilled workers.

The significance of having Airbus planes assembled on U.S. soil is hard to overstate. The $600 million plant, announced in July 2012, is slated to open in 2016 and will eventually produce four aircraft a month. It's changing the economic landscape of Mobile, Alabama and the surrounding Gulf Coast region.

In and of itself the Airbus plant is significant. But it's coming to a region that already has a significant aerospace footprint. Airbus adds aircraft assembly to an Interstate 10 region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida that includes aerial weapons development, pilot training, unmanned aircraft assembly, space activities and more. Even before the decision to establish an assembly line, Airbus has had a presence in Mobile through the Airbus Engineering Center at Brookley.

Establishing the line in Mobile is part of Airbus' long-term strategy to support its customers in the largest single-aisle market in the world. The plant is expected to build 40-50 aircraft a year by 2018, and it's becoming clear that Airbus needs to open another line to keep pace with demand. Airbus is closing in on its 2013 order target four months into the year after already winning more than 600 orders from airlines snapping up the fuel-efficient A320 single-aisle bestseller.

Airbus targeted 700 gross orders for the year. After opening 2013 with a prediction for as many as 650 orders, Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy has raised the goal by a further 50 planes. Airbus is most likely to exceed even that target, given the Paris Air show, a one-week event in June that typically coincides with large-scale orders. (Post)

That underscores something said by Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. "I think Airbus has seen the writing on the wall for a while – that the aircraft market is right on the cusp of immense growth," he said, according to the and the Mobile Press-Register.

According to the newspaper, Greg Canfield, Alabama's commerce secretary, said Mobile will most likely welcome between four and six "integral service providers" essential to the assembly line's production that will located on the Airbus campus. Canfield said Airbus officials are still seeking and negotiating with candidates for these critical suppliers.

There will also be a handful of critical, but not integral, suppliers who will choose to locate somewhere on Brookley's 1,700 acres, but not directly on the Airbus project site. Beyond that, Canfield said, an outer ring of suppliers will begin to form that could reach as far as 100 miles away, but the majority will locate within 45 minutes to one hour of Brookley. Avionics, cabin interiors, furnishings, glass and windows will be among the suppliers locating in that wave, he said. In time, Canfield said, the outermost band will form within about 100 and 300 miles and will consist primarily of suppliers for suppliers.

-- Airbus is now seeking candidates for manager of health, safety and environment at its Mobile plant. For the posting click here. It's the third job posting for the Mobile plant. Airbus Americas spokeswoman MaryAnne Greczyn said hires for manufacturing specific positions will begin later this year.

-- Speaking of investments in this region, Commercial Jet Inc. will invest $12 million to open a new 400,000-square-foot facility at Alabama’s Dothan Regional Airport in Dale County that will employ hundreds. The facility will more than triple the company's capacity to provide freighter conversion and maintenance, repair and overhaul, or MRO, services. The expansion will include multiple hangars, back shops and offices and extensive apron space. The final building will be delivered in October. (Post)

On another investment topic, work continues on plans to build a center to develop small unmanned air and ground vehicles in Okaloosa County, Fla., just outside Eglin Air Force Base. Okaloosa County commissioners approved $65,000 to pay for site assessment and conceptual design of the facility being developed by the University of Florida and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.

The center would be located just south of UF's Research and Engineering Education Facility on land the college owns. The 45,000-square-foot center will consist of two connected buildings, one for administrative offices and research labs and the other for flight and ground tests. The complex will feature space for temporary or permanent offices and labs, depending on clients’ needs. The test center is intended to attract the high-paying science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs. (Post)

The Federal Aviation Administration will delay until June 15 the closure of the air traffic control tower at Stennis International Airport in Hancock County, Miss., and 148 others across the country. Last month the FAA directed the Stennis tower to be among the first to close on Sunday as part of the agency's cost-cutting effort. Now all facilities will close June 15 unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower, the FAA said. Officials from about 50 airports have indicated they may fund the tower operations themselves. The Stennis airport serves, among others, NASA's nearby Stennis Space Center. (Post)

-- Airlines are adding more flights and larger planes at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Delta Airlines added a later flight from Gulfport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on a 50-seat regional jet. American Airlines is going from four to five daily flights serving Dallas-Fort Worth International. US Airways passengers flying to the hub in Charlotte, N.C., will ride larger jets. The airline is replacing two of its 50-seat planes to Charlotte Douglas International Airport with 67-seat regional jets for the season. (Post)

Australia’s first two F-35s are progressing down the U.S. production line in Fort Worth, Texas, and approaching the stage where they will start looking like planes. David Scott, Lockheed Martin's director of F-35 international customer engagement, said the planes, AU-1 and AU-2, were on schedule for delivery in the U.S. in 2014. He said the wings are under construction at the Lockheed Martin plant in Forth Worth, which is also where constructing the forward fuselage is done. The center and aft fuselages are under construction at Northrop Grumman and BAE plants. The first Australian F-35 pilots will likely start training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., later this year. (Post)

-- The third United Kingdom F-35 embarked on its first flight recently. Aircraft ZM137 will complete a series of company and government checkout flights prior to its acceptance by the U.K. Ministry of Defence. ZM137 will join U.K. aircraft ZM135 and ZM136 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., later this year where it will be used for pilot and maintainer training. (Post)

A long-range precision rocket from BAE Systems has successfully been tested on an A-10 Thunderbolt II. The laser-guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II had previously been used in Afghanistan by U.S. Marine Corps helicopters.

The 40th Flight Test Squadron performed three sorties to demonstrate the capability and ensure the rocket could be fired safely from a fixed wing aircraft, a test that had never been done before. The rockets, launched at altitudes 10,000 feet and 15,000 feet, hit within inches of the target. (Post)

Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., learned Friday that it was selected for the
Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. Keesler will represent the Air Force in competition for the Commander-in-Chief's Annual Awards for Installation Excellence. The award comes with a $1 million prize that will be used for quality of life improvements. (Post)

-- A highly decorated member of the Tuskegee Airmen was at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week to participate in the promotion ceremony for Maurice Lee, commander of the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Lee was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel. Harvey, 89, was the first black fighter pilot to fly in the Korean War. Awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross and 11 air medals. (Post)

NASA selected 295 research and technology proposals from 216 American small businesses for negotiations that may lead to contract awards worth a combined $38.7 million. The proposals are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.

Nine proposals involve technology being developed for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss., including nanocomposite protective coatings for nuclear thermal propulsion systems; advanced prognostic tools; power-generating coverings and casings and more. (Post)

Jacobs Technology Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn., was awarded a $128.4 million contract modification. This modification provides for the exercise of an option for additional diverse engineering, technical and acquisition support services being provided under the basic contract. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The contracting activity is AFTC/PZZ, Eglin Air Force Base. … EADS North America of Herndon, Va., was awarded a $21 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for security and support mission equipment package production cut-in services. Work will be performed in Columbus, Miss.

Ingalls: The Mississippi Senate honored Pascagoula’s Ingalls Shipbuilding Thursday on its 75th anniversary as the state's largest private employer. Ingalls employs some 10,000 workers in Mississippi and 37,000 nationwide. (Post)
Commissioning: The Navy Saturday commissioned the newest San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, Arlington, at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The ship is 684 feet long and is the eighth of the LPD-17 class to be built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)
Expansion: Horizon Shipbuilding Inc. of Bayou La Batre, Ala., has tripled the company's production capacity with the recent acquisition and development of its West Yard facilities. Horizon has built ships for the Navy, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and for commercial transportation and oil service companies. (Post)