Saturday, July 27, 2013

Week in review (7/21 to 7/27)

The first F-35 built outside the United States takes shape in Italy; Airbus posts another job opening for its Mobile final assembly line; China's AVIC buys a German engine-maker; GE's purchase of the aeronautics unit of engine-maker Avio is approved; the Air Force sweetens the pot to retain pilots; and the end of an Air Force training program at a Navy base in Milton, Fla., were some of the aerospace stories of interest for the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon are making progress in talks about the next two batches of F-35 fighter jets. That involves 36 planes to be purchased in the sixth production lot and 35 in the seventh. The number includes 60 F-35s for the U.S. military, and 11 for Australia, Italy, Turkey and Britain. Lockheed is building three models of the F-35 for the U.S. military and partners, Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Turkey, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. Israel and Japan are also buying the jets. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

-- Assembly of the first F-35 built outside the United States is now underway in Italy west of Milan. The 22-building complex with more than a million square feet of covered space is jointly operated by Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aermacchi. The plant will build planes for the Italian air force and may eventually assemble planes for the Netherlands. It’s also committed to building wings. (Post)

According to AINonline, the rear fuselage for the first Italian-assembled F-35 was built by BAE Systems in Samlesbury, UK, the forward fuselage and wing by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, and the center fuselage by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, Calif. The plant near Milan will put it all together at the final assembly line, much like workers in Mobile, Ala., will put together the A320 jetliners at Brookley Aeroplex.

-- Lockheed is looking toward the international community for sales to keep the F-35 program aloft in an age of sequestration. Over the next five years close to 50 percent of F-35 orders will come from international customers, according to Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson. In the pre-sequestration fiscal 2014 budget, the Pentagon plans to order more than 300 F-35s in all three variants in the next five years. (Post)

-- In Fort Worth, Texas, the 100th F-35, the first aircraft destined for Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., has entered the last stage of final assembly. The conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, AF-41, is scheduled to arrive at the base next year. Luke will eventually have 144 aircraft and will be the largest F-35 base in the world. (Post)

Airbus Americas is looking for a quality conformance specialist for the A320 final assembly line being built at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. The successful candidate will work with the company’s quality project team in Hamburg, Germany. The successful candidate will be responsible for designing how quality inspections will be performed at Airbus’ first U.S. assembly line. Airbus broke ground in April on the $600 million A320 assembly line, which will employ 1,000 people when it reaches full annual production. (Post)

-- American Airlines took delivery of its first A320 family aircraft at a ceremony at Airbus facilities in Hamburg, Germany. Representatives from American Airlines, Airbus and engine-maker CFM International were on hand. American’s A319s will seat 128 passengers and is the first A319 to feature sharklet wingtip devices that improve fuel efficiency. Sharklets will be standard on all A320neo family. (Post)

-- RAK Airways of the northern Gulf emirate of Ras Al Khaimah said it's in talks with Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier about an order for at least 10 single-aisle aircraft to meet expansion plans. RAK is looking at the Boeing 737-800, Airbus A320 and the CSeries jet from Bombardier, and hopes to make a choice by the end of the year. (Post)

Corporate changes
China's Aviation Industries Corp. (AVIC) is buying Germany's Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH and shifting the supplier's focus from military drones to private aircraft. Bloomberg reports that AVIC International Holding Ltd. plans to leverage Thielert's civil propeller-engine operations to capitalize on an anticipated private aviation boom. AVIC purchased Mobile-based engine maker Continental Motors for $186 million in April 2011 and also bought Minnesota-based planemaker Cirrus Aircraft. (Post)

-- The Federal Trade Commission OKd General Electric's purchase of the aeronautics unit of engine-maker Avio SpA, Italy's manufacturer of aviation propulsion components and systems for civil and military aircraft. GE agreed not to interfere with the development of a key engine component for United Technologies Pratt and Whitney, an aircraft engine maker that competes with GE.

The FTC had been concerned the $4.3 billion acquisition of Avio's aviation business from Cinven, a private equity firm that has owned Avio since 2006, would be anticompetitive. GE and Pratt and Whitney are the sole firms that make engines for the Airbus A320neo. The European Commission earlier this month also cleared the purchase. Airbus will be building A320neo jets in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Military aviation
A salary up to $97,400 and a signing bonus of $225,000 may help the Air Force replenish
its fighter pilot ranks. The shortfall of 200 this year could grow to 700 by 2021 if something isn't done, officials said. The Air Force wants veteran pilots to make a nine-year commitment to fly fighters.

The problem is, many of them find the lure of being a commercial pilot hard to resist. The competition between the military and airlines for pilots promises to be fierce in the future as airlines seek out young talent to replace retirees. Boeing last year estimated a global need for 460,000 new commercial pilots over the next two decades.

Pilots from all branches are learning to fly F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Air Force pilots train on F-22s at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Naval aviators have initial training in Florida at Pensacola and Milton. (Post)

-- A 19-year arrangement ended during the week when the last Air Force pilot finished his instrumentation test. Nearly 100 Air Force student pilots annually have taken the main phase of their flight training at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., while a like number of Navy pilots have trained at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla.

But the services decided to end the reciprocal agreement to save travel expenses and trim other associated costs. However, 18 Air Force instructors will continue to be based at Whiting to help train naval and Coast Guard students. (Post)

-- Lt. Col. Dorene Ross is the new commander of the 335th Training Squadron. Lt. Col. Bradley McAlpine relinquished command during a ceremony July 22 at the Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Facility at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (Post)

Two congressmen are concerned NASA might award use of a Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida to a company that wants exclusive use. The two members of the House subcommittee that approves NASA budgets said Launch Complex 39A is a unique, tax-funded asset that should be available to multiple rocket launchers. SpaceX and Blue Origin are known to have submitted proposals. (Post)

The folks at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., are likely keeping a close eye on how this plays out. They are both involved in NASA and commercial space programs.

-- Astronauts at Johnson Space Center in Houston got a look at Boeing's CST-100 space capsule during the week. Boeing is one of the companies building spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from ISS. SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are also building them. (Post)

DDG 1001: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pasacagoula, Miss., has delivered the final aft peripheral vertical launch system assemblies for the Navy's second Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer, Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), being built in by General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine. (Post)

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