More F-35s arrive at Eglin Air Force Base; the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition wins an international competition; a company is chose for the Airbus powerhouse in Mobile; a candidate is picked to head up Okaloosa County airports; and command changes at area bases were among the items of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.
Here's the week in review:
Less than a week after getting its first Navy variant of the F-35, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 received its second F-35C. The fighter arrived after a 90-minute flight from the Lockheed Martin production line in Fort Worth, Texas. VFA 101 will serve as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training both aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the F-35C. (Post)
That F-35C was in the same formation that brought the U.K.'s third F-35 to Eglin. Flown by U.S. Marine pilot Lt. Col. Roger Hardy, the plane is designated BK-3. For the UK, the F-35 program involves more 500 British suppliers who are building 15 percent of each F-35 produced. (Post)
There was some good news for Luke Air Force Base in Arizona during the week. It will get three more squadrons of the F-35A. The 72 additional jets will give the base in Glendale six squadrons totaling 144 F-35As, more than any other Air Force installation.
All F-35A pilots will train at either Luke or Eglin, the location of the current schoolhouse for instructor pilots. The first three F-35A squadrons are scheduled to begin arriving at Luke next year. (Post)
A group of airmen at Eglin won a national award from the Air Force for work maintaining the new state-of-the-art equipment for F-35 pilots. The 10-person 33rd Operations Support Squadron's Aircrew Flight Equipment group received the Air Force's Outstanding Aircrew Flight Small Equipment Program award for their work in 2012. The crew maintains the helmet, flight jacket and g-suit for instructor pilots and students learning to fly the Air Force’s variant of the F-35. (Post)
A team from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., took first place in the initial stage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, coming out on top of a roster of 26 of the top robotics research groups in the world.
IHMC's team scored 52 out of a possible 60 points in the DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge, a computer simulation using software that will power a real-life humanoid robot in the future. The robot had to get into a vehicle, drive to a disaster site, walk over difficult terrain and attach a hose to a spigot.
Members of the top nine teams, which includes MIT and the Jet Propulsion Lab, move on to the next competition, with the top six getting funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and a humanoid robot built by Boston Dynamics.
The next competition, using the robots, is scheduled for December 2013. The final challenge is set for December 2014, with $2 million in prize money at stake. IHMC has worked with NASA for years on multiple projects, including creating the algorithms to provide locomotion for a walking version of Robonaut2, the humanoid aboard the International Space Station. (Post)
Airbus awarded Honeywell a $37 million powerhouse operation contract for the A320 final assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex. The project will begin in the fall and completed in mid-2014. It will be managed from the Birmingham branch of Minnesota’s Honeywell Building Solutions.
Honeywell will design and build, and through a 10-year service agreement operate and maintain the facility that will supply utilities to the assembly line. Ground was broken in April on the $600 million plant that will employ 1,000. (Post)
NASA selected Healtheon Inc. of New Orleans to provide a high pressure industrial water line at Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. The firm-fixed price task order has a total value of $29.8 million and a performance period of 530 days. Work is scheduled to begin in July. The water line provides cooling water and acoustic suppression to Stennis' B Test Complex, which will be used to test the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System in 2016. (Post)
Okaloosa County Administrator Ernie Padgett has recommended hiring Tallahassee aviation director Sunil Harman as the county’s next airports director. Padgett will present the recommendation to county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting in Crestview, Fla. Harman, who has worked as Tallahassee’s aviation director since 2011, was selected from an original pool of more than 100 applicants. Harman has spent more than 26 years in the industry. (Post)
Okaloosa County officials again are pursuing legal action against Vision Airlines, this time to recover almost $40,000 in unpaid fees. That’s for unpaid rent, fuel and utility charges that accrued while the discount carrier was flying out of Northwest Florida Regional Airport. In February, Vision paid the county $117,000 in overdue passenger facility charges. (Post)
A training center for Air Force security forces will be built in Fort Bliss, Texas. The Security Forces Ground Combat Training Center will train 8,500 students per year by October 2014 by consolidating regional training centers. One of the regional training center’s that’s closing is at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The final decision will be made after an environmental study is completed this summer. (Post)
Two maintenance squadrons, one at Eglin Air Force Base and the other at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., have been deactivated. The 33d Maintenance Operations Squadron (MOS) was inactivated June 13. The unit was the only military maintenance organization to house airmen, Marines and sailors in the Department of Defense's first of its kind for the F-35 program.
At Tyndall, the 325th MOS was inactivated June 20. The squadron provided key maintenance analysis data, flying and maintenance scheduling management and flight line operations oversight. The deactivations resulted from the Air Force's decision last year to reorganize maintenance support in part because of a lack of field-grade officers in the maintenance career field. (Post)
Area bases also had multiple change of command ceremonies. At Tyndall Air Force Base, Col. Charles Corcoran relinquished command of the 325th Operations Group to Col. Max Marosko. The 325th Operations Group is responsible for directing the flying and support operations for an F-22 Raptor fighter squadron, a training and support squadron, and an operations support squadron. (Post)
In addition, Col. Chris Weaver took over from Col. Paul Skala as commander of the 325th Medical Group. Skala leaves Tyndall to be the command administrator and director of medical support at U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The 325th Medical Group staff operates as an outpatient medical facility with family practice, pediatrics, dental, flight medicine and women’s health clinics. (Post)
Further to the west at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Maj. Jeffrey Johns took over the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Lt. Col. Felix Johnfinn. The 801st SOAMXS performs all equipment maintenance in support of worldwide special operations missions. It supports the CV-22B Osprey hybrid aircraft and MC-130H Talon II aircraft.
Also at Hurlburt, Lt. Col. David Byer took command of the 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron from Lt. Col. Christopher Patrick. The 1st SOMDOS promotes and maintains the health of 8,000 active-duty, reserve, civilian personnel, and 22,000 beneficiaries.
Finally, Maj. James Cooper took over the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron from Maj. Michael Campos. The 1st SOMXS conducts special operations airlift, helicopter air refueling and psychological operations throughout the United States, South America, Africa and Middle East. (Post)
It cost between $88,000 and $97,000 for Alabama officials to participate in the Paris Air Show, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. That includes travel costs for seven officials, but most of the money was for the Alabama booth, graphics and set-up.
The Alabama delegation numbered about 90, and most participants were from cities, counties and companies who did not travel at state expense. Nineteen communities, economic development groups, and chambers attended. At least 20 other states had a significant presence at the air show, the department said, including Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. (Post)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide will continue to operate programs at two local schools. The Okaloosa County School Board approved an agreement with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Institutes at Choctawhatchee and Crestview high schools.
Ron Garriga, who will serve as the director of local program, said that for the upcoming school year Embry-Riddle expects to have 200 students enrolled and hopes the program's popularity will increase with more on hands-on learning. Under the new contract, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders at Choctaw and Crestview can enroll in a variety of college level courses in the aviation field as long as they have a 2.5 GPA and two teacher recommendations. (Post)
Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $39.5 million modification to the contract for Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded an $11.4 million contract for travel and relocation for 15 contractor engineering and technical services representatives for Air National Guard (ANG) (5); Navy (1), and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) (9) in support of the F100 engines on the F-15/F-16 (U.S. Air Force and FMS); and the JT9D and J52 engines on the C-9 (Navy) aircraft. One of the five ANG locations where work will be performed is in New Orleans. … Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC, Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $10 million contract for the Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBMK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.
Keel laying: Austal USA held a keel laying ceremony during the week to mark the start of construction on a new Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Montgomery. (Post)
Contract: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Bethpage, N.Y., was awarded a $19.4 million modification to previously awarded contract to provide engineering and production planning services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the littoral combat ship. Ten percent of the work will be performed in Panama City, Fla. (Post)