Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week in review (8/4 to 8/10)

Many of you are aware of the annual aerospace book "Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor," which published for the third year in June. And you're likely also aware of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor daily news feed, as well as this weekly column.

Well beginning in September you'll also be able to get a quarterly update of Gulf Coast aerospace activities through a brand new newsletter produced by the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League, the team behind the annual book.

The quarterly will be a free, downloadable PDF and will provide in-depth stories about this region’s aerospace activities. The newsletter will be available on the website, and we'll also send out a news brief on the RSS feed letting you know when it's published.

What's becoming increasingly clear is that we're focusing on the right topic at the right time. Our first annual was published in 2011, and the aerospace news digest goes back to 2008 with a news archive dating to 2005. The news feed gets thousands of page views each month, with many of the readers from foreign countries.

Economic development groups in the Gulf Coast have shown a strong belief in this region's aerospace future. Many of them are underwriters for our news and information efforts. But they also have their own programs.

The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce recently created an online survey to attract and recruit experienced workers interested in pursuing aviation/aerospace careers. Further to the east, Florida's Great Northwest recently launched a website about aerospace activities in Northwest Florida. FGNW is working with counterparts to the east to extend its area of aerospace interest all the way to Jacksonville, Fla., and up the coast to Charleston, S.C.

To the west, South Mississippi has been interested in aerospace and other science and technology fields for a very long time. I once worked with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Alliance for Economic Development, a multi-county organization, to create materials on their sci-tech activities, including aerospace.

And Mobile is continuing to make the most of Airbus' decision more than a year ago to build an A320 final assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex. The new head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce is Bill Sisson, who until recently was head of the Mobile Airport Authority. And the person who replaced Sisson at MAA, Roger Wehner, is also quite familiar with efforts to make Mobile a center for aircraft manufacturing.

So keep your eyes on this region. A lot of aerospace activity is going on and will continue to do so, and we'll do our best to keep you up to date. Now here's the week in review:

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the F-35s are continuing to ramp up training and have started to simulate some combat-type missions. For the first time last month, the F-35 was controlled by an air battle management squadron on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

"It's what we would do in the real world," said Col. Stephen Jost, commander of the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin AFB. As more F-35s arrive, more sorties are flown and more students put through the F-35 training program.

The air battle managers are with the 337th Air Control Squadron, which falls under the 33rd Operations Group but is stationed at Tyndall AFB in Panama City. The 337th trains about 130 students a year to become air battle managers.

Their radar equipment provides a much broader view than the radars inside the F-35. The equipment can pick up anything flying over the Gulf of Mexico from Houston to down and around the Florida peninsula and then up the East Coast to Virginia. (Post)

-- A Lockheed Martin short takeoff/vertical landing F-35B, designated BF-1, completed its 500th vertical landing August 3. It's the same plane that marked the variant's first vertical landing in March 2010 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

This week Developmental Test 2 sea trials are scheduled to begin onboard the USS Wasp. DT-2 is the second of three planned tests aimed at defining and expanding the F-35B's shipboard operating envelope for the U.S. Marine Corps.

The first shipboard testing phase was successfully completed in October 2011, when an F-35 successfully completed an at-sea landing. The successful completion of the upcoming Sea Trials is key to declaring F-35 Initial Operating Capability for the Marines in 2015. (Post)

The Air Force is closing part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris. It could happen as soon as Oct. 1. Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System, known as Space Fence and a component of the U.S. space surveillance network, be closed and all sites vacated.

A memo obtained by SpaceNews to Five Rivers Services of Colorado Springs, Colo., operator of the Space Fence, said the Air Force was not exercising its option for a fifth year of a contract for the nine field stations. And that's a big deal since Space Fence is responsible for about 40 percent of all observations of the space surveillance network.

Shelton said in July that engineers at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the 20th Space Control Squadron, were looking for ways to improve the current Space Fence should funding not come down the pike for the next-generation system. (Post)

-- Space Florida during the week moved forward with plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars. The board approved spending up to $4 million to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center.

The future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously the Air Force confirmed studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape. (Post)

The Navy plans to fly its two Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrators into 2014. The service had earlier said that the prototypes would be retired after demonstrating the ability to make carrier arrested landings at sea. That was accomplished July 10.

The two X-47Bs will stay at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., while the program continues to assess potential opportunities for additional tests at Pax River and at-sea, according to the Navy. Critics said the Navy was prematurely retiring the two testbeds.

The X-47B isn't built in the Gulf Coast region, but Northrop Grumman Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. The X-47B is also of interest to the Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., which eventually will get one of the X-47Bs to put on display. (Post)

-- The Federal Aviation Administration's recent certification of ScanEagle and Puma unmanned aircraft for commercial use further opens up the U.S. market for drones. The agency in late July gave the green light to Boeing's Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment's Puma.

Congress called on the FAA to write rules by 2015 that would govern the commercial operation of drones in the national airspace. The Teal Group has estimated that annual spending on drones around the world will almost double to $11.4 billion by 2022.

The FAA said a major energy company plans to fly the ScanEagle off the Alaska coast to survey ice flows and whale migration, and the Puma will be used for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., and Camp Shelby is home of a UAV regional flight center for the Army National Guard. The Puma is among the UAVs used at Camp Shelby. Special Forces also fly UAVs at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., also have drone activities. (Post)

A bulk order from easyJet in July allowed Airbus to overtake Boeing in orders for commercial aircraft in the first seven months of this year. Airbus booked new orders for 174 jetliners in July, thanks to a bulk order from easyJet for 135 A320 single-aisle planes.

July's orders brought to 892 the number of firm orders booked by Airbus over the first seven months of this year, and put it well over the net firm order total of 833 recorded in 2012. All but seven of July's new orders were for the A320 jets, a workhorse for low-cost airlines. Airbus is building an A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

A chafed electrical wire is being blamed for the crash of an F-22 in November at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The pilot ejected and nobody was injured on the ground. The 43rd Fighter Squadron jet was the lead of a two-ship training mission. According to the board's findings released Friday, the fire damaged the hydraulic system and caused the pilot to be unable to control the jet. (Story)

-- Hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees who have had to take a weekly unpaid day off from work since July 8 are getting some relief, as the total number of furlough days was reduced from 11 to six. Civilian workers in the Gulf Coast’s multiple bases have been subjected to furloughs. (Post)

-- Newly promoted Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson received his second star during a pin-on ceremony Aug. 2 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Jansson, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons, Armament Directorate, pinned on the rank of major general in a ceremony officiated by Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II, commander, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. (Post)

Nova Group Inc., Napa, Calif., was awarded a contract with a maximum value of $14.9 million for the construction of a fuel storage facility at Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther, Fla. A combination of fiscal 2009, fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2013 military construction funds are being obligated on this award. The Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … CACI-ISS Inc., Chantilly, Va., was awarded an $8.7 million contract for healthcare facilities support to support Air Force Medical Support Agency mission. The long list of bases where work will be performed includes Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Work is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, 2016.

Zumwalt: The Navy is switching to a steel deckhouse for the next Zumwalt-class destroyer, DDG-1002, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson. The Navy was reportedly unhappy with the costs of the composite structures for the first two Zumwalt ships. Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss., built those structures. (Post)

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