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.
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)