Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week in review (8/11 to 8/17)

A land swap deal in Pensacola, a huge purchase of Airbus A320s, a Navy F-35C makes its first flight at Eglin, a large F-35 order; a thruster is sent to SSC; a recovery test of the Orion space vehicle; the move of C-130Js from Keesler is delayed; four companies are awarded contracts to continue work on carrier-based UAVs; Fire Scouts wrap up their deployment in Afghanistan were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

Here's the week in review:

Land swap
In Florida, Escambia County is moving forward on a project to acquire 640 acres of Navy land in the county's Beulah community and turning it into a commerce park. In exchange, Escambia County would provide the Navy with 640 acres land in neighboring Santa Rosa County not far from Naval Air Station Whiting Field.

During the week the Escambia County Commission unanimously agreed to take the lead on the $16 million to $25 million deal to obtain Outlying Field 8, used by the Navy for helicopter training.

The hope is to provide a home for aerospace companies tied to the Airbus' final assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala. The land in question is adjacent to the 308-acre Navy Federal Credit Union campus and close to Interstate 10.

The commission set aside $200,000 to find and pay for a consultant to help conduct due diligence and to cover the cost of taking over other responsibilities on the agreement from the Greater Pensacola Chamber, which initiated the land swap that will take about two years to complete. Congress must also agree to the deal. (Post)

London-based International Airlines Group secured orders and options for up to 220 of Airbus A320 family short-haul aircraft, a deal worth to some $20 billion. The airlines group, which is the parent of British Airways and Iberia, said up to 120 of these orders will be for Spanish subsidiary Vueling, which joined IAG in April.

The Vueling agreement comprises 62 firm orders and 58 options. The firm orders will be delivered to Vueling between 2015 and 2020. IAG also has secured 100 A320neo options, which could be used for any of its airlines for aircraft replacements. (Post)

-- Airbus sent a team of specialists to Alabama in the wake of the crash during the week of a twin-engine A300-600F UPS cargo plane near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The crash killed the pilot and co-pilot of Flight 1354 from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham. The plane has been in service with UPS since 2003, and accumulated some 11,000 flight hours in about 6,800 flights, according to Airbus. (Post)

-- The first blue-collar job postings are expected as early as October for the final assembly line being built at Brookley Aeroplex. Lee Hammett, Alabama Industrial Development Training program’s assistant director for South Alabama, said his organization is working with Airbus to finalize guidelines and protocol for pre-employment training.

If Airbus OKs AIDT's hiring guidelines, orientations could begin in November followed by interviews in December and pre-employment training as early as January. The blue-collar workers will be the hourly employees who assemble the aircraft. The plant will open in 2015 and deliver its first A320 in 2016. (Post)

An F-35C, the Navy variant of the stealth fighter, completed its first training flight
during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 1.3-hour flight was made by Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 naval aviator Chris Tabert.

The squadron received the Navy's first F-35C from Lockheed Martin June 22. The flight was the first in the new Navy aircraft flown by a VFA-101 pilot at Eglin. VFA-101 will now begin to schedule and perform sorties under their own charter from their facilities at Eglin. (Post)

-- Military and community leaders in Beaufort, S.C., will get a chance to see F-35 fighters during an invitation-only event this week. Two F-35B fighters, flown up from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be on display during the showcase Tuesday.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will eventually be home to three combat squadrons and two training squadrons of the next-generation jets. The air station is expected to get its first group of the fifth-generation fighters in January 2014, when its first training squadron will arrive. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, now at Eglin, will relocate to MCAS Beaufort as part of the air station's new role. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a not-to-exceed $852.3 million modification to the previously awarded Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition contract. This modification provides for the procurement of special tooling and special test equipment for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and the international partners, which is critical to preserving the current F-35 delivery schedules and meeting future production rates. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

Aerojet Rocketdyne shipped to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., the first set of four Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) thrusters for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R).

At SSC, Lockheed Martin will integrate the thrusters and associated power conditioning units and electrical cabling with the GOES-R spacecraft. It will then be shipped to Lockheed Martin's facility near Denver, Colo. where it will undergo final integration and testing.

The completed satellite will ultimately be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., for a planned late 2015 or early 2016 launch on an Atlas V 541 expendable launch vehicle. Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp company, also has an operation at SSC. (Post)

-- In Norfolk, Va., NASA conducted a stationary recovery test of the spacecraft Orion in the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington, while berthed at Naval Station Norfolk's Pier 12 on Aug. 15, 2013.

This successful test of the four-man, 16-foot capsule paves the way for future testing of NASA's Orion Program, including a West Coast underway recovery test in January, and the recovery of a low-orbit module following splashdown in the fall of 2014. NASA plans its first unmanned Orion voyage to take place in 2017, and a manned expedition in 2021.

The Navy has worked with NASA with space craft recoveries for programs including Mercury (1959-1963), Gemini (1961-1966) and Apollo (1961-1972). The last recovery done by the U.S. Navy was in 1975.

Orion was built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. (Story)

The Air Force Reserve will delay the move of C-130Js from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to Pope Field, N.C. The movement of planes from the 815th and 345th airlift squadrons was set for Oct. 1, but has been delayed until at least April 2014.

In addition to the loss of aircraft, the 815th and its active duty partners, the 345th, are also slated to shut down. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the Hurricane Hunters, will not lose aircraft or personnel. (Post)

-- A federal judge ruled in favor of Bay County over a water and sewer rate dispute with Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Tyndall refused to pay at higher levels for sewer and water service when the county increased rates, saying system upgrades did not directly benefit the base.

The county said Tyndall owes $850,000 dating to the first rate increase in 2007. While the ruling sided with the county, it said Tyndall is obligated to pay the higher rate back to March 14, 2011, when the lawsuit was filed. (Post)

-- After two years as the 81st Training Wing's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Angie Johnson is leaving Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to become the command chief for Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Johnson's successor will be Chief Master Sgt. Farrell Thomas, who has served for the past three years as the special assistant to the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force at the Pentagon. (Post)

Four defense companies each have been awarded $15 million to continue work on a new
unmanned combat plane for the Navy. Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomic each won awards for preliminary design review assessment for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) Air Vehicle. Work runs through June 2014.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. Under a separate contract, Northrop Grumman's X-47B has already logged a catapult launch and arrested landing from the deck of a carrier. (Post)

-- The Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter wrapped up its Afghanistan mission earlier this month after more than 5,000 flight hours, the program's top officer said during the week at an unmanned-vehicle symposium.

Since deploying to Afghanistan in 2011, the MQ-8 Fire Scout system has provided real-time airborne surveillance and targeting supporting counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), provided targeting support and delivered real-time video to military forces on the ground.

Northrop Grumman is under contract to the Navy to build the first eight of 30 planned MQ-8C versions of the Fire Scout, which will have twice the endurance, three times the payload capability, and will be ready for operation next year. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Whitesell-Green Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $15.9 million contract for construction of a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Mission Control Complex at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

NSC: Ingalls Shipbuilding launched Hamilton (WMSL 753), the company's fourth Legend-class national security cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard. (Post)

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