Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week in review (5/19 to 5/25)

First flight of Triton.
Navy photo courtesy Northrop Grumman
Aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week included the Navy Triton's first flight; more orders for A320 jetliners; the selection of a general contractor to build a facility in Mobile, Ala., that will train Airbus workers; hiring of an Airbus customs manager; a subcommittee's rejection of another BRAC round in 2015; the selection of three Gulf Coast bases for installation awards; the move of two Air Force squadrons from Eglin to Hurlburt Field; and the selection of a company to do renovations at the B-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

And here's one more aerospace item I want to tell you about. Next week the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, of which I'm a member, will publish the third edition of "Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2013-2014." The annual highlights aerospace activities in the region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida. The digital version is free.

This year, the printed version of the book will be provided to a group of STEM teachers in a pilot program, thanks to a benefactor in Pensacola, Fla. The authors, who all have children and grandchildren, want to make sure students in the region understand the opportunities here. We also want to thank our underwriters – more than a dozen this year – for making this book possible. I'll provide more details next week.

Now for your week in review:

The Navy's MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft completed its first flight during the week. It was at Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif., facility. During the 80-minute flight, the Triton reached an altitude of 20,000 feet.

Triton will provide maritime and littoral data collection in the Navy's Asia and Pacific regions. An adjunct to the manned P-8A Poseidon, it will fly missions for 24 hours at altitudes greater than 10 miles.

Flight tests will continue in California for the next several months before the team transitions the aircraft to Patuxent River, Md., in the fall. Central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss., on all the Navy's Tritons. (Post)

-- Earlier this month I told you that Germany pulled the plug on the Euro Hawk surveillance aircraft. The concern was over flight clearance issues. Now Deutsche Welle during the week reports that Germany's decision won't have an impact on NATO's surveillance program.

NATO plans to use five Global Hawks Block 40 type for its Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. Both Euro Hawk and the AGS drones use the Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk airframe.

The AGS aircraft are scheduled to be used by 2017 and stationed in Sicily. Fourteen NATO states are involved: Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the U.S. (Story)

Air China has ordered 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft worth $8.8 billion at list price, 60 for the airline itself and 40 for subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines. In addition, AirAsia could buy another 50 planes as it targets expansion in India. Five months ago the Malaysian carrier added 100 jets to its order book to lift total purchases to 475 planes. Airbus broke ground last month on an A320 assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Meanwhile, Airbus Americas named Christopher Johnson customs manager for that $600 million plant. He joined the company May 20. Johnson will be responsible for securing and improving the Toulouse, France-based planemaker’s customs activities in the United States. (Post)

A lot of folks will eventually work at that assembly line, 1,000, in fact. And they have to be trained. Mobile's Rod Cooke Construction was chosen as general contractor for the Alabama Aviation Training Center at Brookley. The $6 million, 35,600-square-foot facility is for the Alabama Industrial Development Training program. It will train potential Airbus employees. The project is slated for completion by March 2014. (Post)

While on the subject of workers, the vice president of operations for ST Aerospace Mobile spoke to members of the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Council Thursday. They were holding their quarterly meeting at the STA Mobile site.

Bill Hafner told them that collaboration with the Alabama Industrial Development Training program and aggressive development of diversified career paths will be the key to STA Mobile's longevity as it grapples with an aging workforce.

The council was formed to identify and address skills gaps and working to meet the needs of the state's growing aerospace sector. (Post)

In one final Airbus-related item -- well, kind of Airbus-related -- Alabama's aerospace, automotive, health care and financial industries are the focus of a 44-page section in Delta's Sky magazine in June. It will reach the millions who fly the airliner. Sky's "Profile" section highlights a state or city each month, and this is the first time Alabama has been featured. The section has 22 pages of ads and 22 pages of editorial. Gov. Robert Bentley said the timing is ideal since aerospace leaders from around the world will be flying to Paris in June for the 50th annual International Paris Air Show. (Post)

The House Armed Services' Readiness Subcommittee opposes the Pentagon's request for a base realignment and closure round in 2015. The panel approved language in its portion of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill precluding the Defense Department from using FY 2014 appropriations for a BRAC round. Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman, R-Va., said further review would be required before the committee could consider endorsing a new BRAC round. (Post)

-- Three bases in this region are among five that won the Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. The 2013 award winners are the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Rucker, Ala.; Naval Support Activity Panama City, Panama City, Fla.; and Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss. The other winners are Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, Columbus, Ohio. (Post)

-- Two Air Force squadrons moved to a new hangar by running about 15 miles. More than 50 people from the 9th Special Operations and the 1st Special Operations Maintenance squadrons ran a relay to carry their official flags from their hangar at Eglin Air Force Base to their new home at Hurlburt Field. The move reunites all 1st Special Operations Wing squadrons under one roof. About 400 people and eight MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft relocated. (Post)

-- Changes to local military flight procedures at Eglin Air Force Base may mean less noise on the ground. The changes include raising minimum flight altitudes over populated areas. The commander of the 96th Operations Group at Eglin said his primary concern was safety and carrying out the Air Force’s mission, but added that the new policies also should help make things quieter. (Post)

Sauer Inc., of Jacksonville, Fla., won a $6.5 million NASA task order to renovate the B-2
rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The project should be finished in 10 months. The B-2 stand, originally built to test Saturn rocket stages, is being renovated to test NASA’s new Space Launch System core stage in late 2016 and early 2017. (Post)

-- Sierra Nevada, a Colorado company developing the Dream Chaser spaceship to take astronauts to the International Space Station, is testing landing-related elements at NASA facilities. A flight simulator at the Langley, Va., facility is being used to simulate what it would be like to land Dream Chaser.

The company has also delivered a Dream Chaser engineering test craft to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California to test the craft's nose strut, brakes and tires. Lockheed Martin will assemble the composite structure for the first space-bound Dream Chaser at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Post)

L-3 Communications, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $53 million contract for logistics services support of the TH-57 aircraft fleet. Services to be provided include repair and/or overhaul of aircraft, engines, avionics and related components. Work will be performed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in June 2014. (Post)

Workers: About 33 Indian guest workers filed a lawsuit against Mobile, Ala.-based Signal International claiming they were tricked out of money and forced to work in barbaric conditions at the Pascagoula, Miss. facility. (Post)

JHSV: USNS Choctaw County, the Navy's second Joint High Speed Vessel, completed acceptance trials earlier this month in the Gulf of Mexico. The Austal USA-built JHSV is an all-aluminum, non-combat catamaran transport ship. (Post)

Contract: L-3 Global Communications Solutions, Victor, N.Y., was awarded an $8 million delivery order to acquire Hawkeye III Lite tri-band antennas and Hawkeye diplexer kits. Work will be performed in Panama City, Fla., and is expected to complete by September 2013. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City is the contracting activity. (Post)

Academy: Classes should be underway at Ingalls Shipbuilding's Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy by the end of summer. The academy is meant to provide a skilled workforce and will help Ingalls expand its 2- to 4-year apprentice program to about 1,000 students. (Post)

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