Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week in review (10/20 to 10/26)

It was an active week for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor, with SpaceX announcing it will test a next generation engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Italy's Comau Aerospace joining the Airbus team in Mobile, Ala., as the assembly line robotics supplier; a $5 billion order for A320s from Mexico; a Stennis Space Center partner chalking up a successful space mission; a $24.7 million contract modification for QF-16 drones for Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; several F-35 contracts, including a $508 million deal for engines; and a key aerospace gathering in Washington state.

Here's your week in review:

Last week during an aerospace conference in Washington state, a reporter for the Puget Sound Business Journal asked Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas, if Airbus will eventually establish a facility in Washington.

"We probably don't need another engineering center in the U.S. We're happy with what we are doing in Mobile," he said. That belief in Mobile and the Gulf Coast region affirms what Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas, has been saying for quite some time now.

Back in November during a meeting with the media, McArtor said he was excitement about the future of this region, and what the Mobile campus can be. "I intend to make this the example within Airbus," so when projects come along Mobile will be a strong contender.

Indeed, as recently as the Paris Air Show McArtor told the Seattle Times that in 10 years Airbus will build "more than just A320s in Mobile." He said that the wide-body A330 could still be in production then, and could be built in Mobile, perhaps as a military conversion to a freighter or a tanker.

So why was Airbus in Washington? Here are some figures that make that clear. According to the Washington Department of Commerce, that state has 1,256 companies in the aerospace supply chain and 131,000 workers. Nearly 75 percent of them supply Boeing, 40 percent supply Airbus, over 25 percent serve Spirit and another 20-25 percent Brazil's Embraer.

"What we do need from the state of Washington is a high-quality, innovative supply chain," Eccleston told the Puget Sound Business Journal. Airbus is spending $12 billion a year in the United States and expects to double that. Of that amount, Airbus buys about $180 million worth of parts from Washington suppliers, and it hopes to get that up to $300 million in seven years.

The number of suppliers in Washington can't help but intrigue Alabama and other states in the Southeast with a foot in the aerospace door. Alabama and South Carolina officials were also in Seattle to develop relationships with aerospace suppliers during the annual conference.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Secretary of State Greg Canfield told the Seattle Times that he expects the aerospace industry to grow in Alabama in the same way the automotive industry has, through assembly plant expansions and the creation of an ever-widening supplier base.

"We fully expect the Airbus experience will be the same," he told the newspaper.

Canfield also told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the growth of aviation manufacturing in the Southeast means the region will become even more attractive to suppliers serving Airbus, Boeing and other companies.

All of this interest from the Southeast does concern economic development oficials in Washington state, according to the Seattle Times. The South has been a big player for years – it's where the military placed a lot of aviation-related bases and where NASA built facilities for the space program. But aircraft manufacturing is a concern in Washington state.

In addition to Boeing's 787 assembly line in Charleston, S.C., and Airbus' A320 assembly line in Mobile, Embraer has a plant in Jacksonville, Fla., and Gulfstream has one in Savannah, Ga. Even the latest iteration of aircraft assembly, unmanned aerial systems, have found homes in Moss Point and Columbus, Miss., among other locations.

No wonder Washington state is a bit concerned.

Italy's Comau Aerospace was picked by Airbus to supply the aircraft main assembly and test stations for the A320 plant being built in Mobile, Ala. The $600 million final assembly line will produce A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. Comau Aerospace will provide all jigs and tooling for the Mobile plant, and plans to open an integration center near the plant that will offer full project support.

Comau, a subsidiary of the diversified manufacturer Fiat Group, was founded in 1973. It makes automation systems for the aerospace and automotive industries and operates in 23 locations in 13 countries. Headquartered in Turin, Italy, its North American operation is in Southfield, Mich. (Post)

In addition, Hoar Program Management awarded the Mobile office of Terracon Consultants Inc. Terracon will provide construction material testing and special inspections to support the prime contractor for the $600 million project’s Package A, which includes the final assembly line hangar, logistics building and service building at Brookley Aeroplex. Terracon is an employee owned engineering consulting firm that employs more than 3,000 at 140 offices in 40 states. (Post)

-- Mexican budget airline VivaAerobus has ordered 52 Airbus A320-family jets in a record deal worth $5.1 billion. It includes 40 A320neo jets. Airbus said the deal was the biggest ever order for its aircraft by a single airline in Latin America. News that VivaAerobus would place a large order with Airbus was previously reported by Reuters as far back as June. (Post)

SpaceX, the first commercial company to successfully fly a cargo mission to the International Space Station, has chosen Stennis Space Center, Miss., for initial testing of its next generation Raptor methane rocket engine.

The E-2 test stand at SSC will be made methane capable, and testing will be in early 2014.

SpaceX is just the latest commercial spaceflight company to pick SSC for rocket engine testing. Orbital Sciences, which just last week successfully completed its resupply mission to the International Space Station, tests AJ26 engines that power its Antares launch vehicle at SSC. Commercial company Blue Origin also tests engine at SSC. (Post)

The Raptor rocket engine is significant. It's capable of generating nearly 300 tons of thrust in vacuum, around four times more powerful than the Merlin 1D used in SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. And that's the engine that may well take SpaceX to Mars.

Nicknamed "Red Dragon" – SpaceX has made no secret about heading to Mars, even publishing a graphic of their spacecraft touching down on the Red Planet. The Raptor engine is a key element of that plan. According to, Raptor is a sea-change in SpaceX’s propulsion approach since it shuns RP-1 and liquid oxygen, currently used in the Falcon 9's Merlin engines, in favor of methane and liquid oxygen.

According to, initially the new engine was mentioned for a role powering an upper stage, but now it appears it will serve as the main engine for the first stage of a new rocket.

We'll keep a close eye on this one.

-- As I mentioned above, one of the commercial companies using engine test facilities at SSC, Orbital Sciences, celebrated last week its first successful resupply demonstration to the International Space Station.

The Cygnus spacecraft, loaded with items no longer needed at the ISS, burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Cygnus is designed to burn up. Cygnus launched Sept. 18 atop an Antares rocket and docked with ISS on Sept. 29.

Dragon was the first private company to successfully dock with ISS.

Both SpaceX and Orbital Science have billion-dollar NASA contracts to deliver cargo to the ISS on multiple missions over the coming years. (Post)

-- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was at Stennis Space Center, Miss., to welcome employees back to work after the 16-day U.S. government shutdown. Bolden held separate meetings with SSC and NASA Shared Services Center workers. He also toured the B-2 Test Stand, which is being prepared to test the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System, which will carry humans deeper into space than ever before. (Post)

A decision on whether the University of Florida and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County will build a dedicated robot vehicle testing center is expected by early 2014.

UF and the EDC have been exploring building an unmanned aerial vehicle test facility just south of the college's Research and Engineering Education Facility outside Eglin Air Force Base.

Nathan Sparks, the EDC's executive director, said a decision could be made in the next two to three months. The project has an estimated cost of $4.5 million, but the college and EDC are evaluating ways to lower that.

Unmanned systems are of high interest to the Gulf Coast region. The military at Tyndall Air Force Base, Eglin AFB, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City, all in Florida, Camp Shelby and Stennis Space Center, Miss., all work with unmanned systems. In addition, Pensacola’s Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is internationally known for its work with robotic systems. Also, Fire Scout unmanned helicopters and Global Hawk are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- A full-scale mockup of Northrop Grumman's X-47B unmanned combat air system is now at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. In May 2013 the X-47B made its first successful catapult launch from the USS George H.W. Bush, and in July it made its first successful arrested landing aboard the ship. In August the Navy decided to delay the retirement of the prototype aircraft and look for new testing opportunities. (Post)

-- Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $24.7 million modification for an existing contract for QF-16 Full-Scale Aerial Target low rate initial production. The drones will go to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The contract modification is for the exercise of the low rate initial production option under the basic contract, and is for the purchase of 13 QF-16s, 12 drone peculiar support equipment, and integration engineering support. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBYK (Aerial Targets), Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- Defense Support Services LLC, Marlton, N.J., was awarded a $14.9 million modification exercising option year five under an existing Aerial Targets contract to support live-fire weapons system testing with the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group in the testing for all air-to-air missiles for F-22, F-35, F-16, and F-15 aircraft. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Holloman AFB, N.M., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2014. (Post)

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center and right now has more F-35s than any other location. As of the end of the week the 33rd Fighter Wing had 33 of the fifth generation fighters, and all three variants, on station. There were several F-35 updates during the week.

United Technologies Corp., Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., is being awarded a $508.2 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Lot VI low rate initial production advance acquisition contract. It provides for the procurement of 18 F135 conventional take off and landing engines for the U.S. Air Force; six short take-off and vertical landing engines for the U.S. Marine Corps; and seven carrier variant engines for the U.S. Navy.

In addition, this contract procures three F135 CTOL engines for Italy; two CTOL propulsion systems for Australia; one F135 CTOL spare propulsion system for Italy; and one F135 spare propulsion system for Australia. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps (42 percent); the U.S. Air Force (41 percent); and the international partners (17 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $30 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, materials and components required for the delivery of two additional Low Rate Initial Production Lot VIII F-35 conventional takeoff and landing aircraft for the government of Japan.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in July 2014. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting authority. (Post)

Flightglobal reports that the $30 million contract will let Japan perform the local assembly of its first two F-35s. In December 2011 Tokyo picked the conventional take-off and landing F-35A for a 42-aircraft requirement.

The first four will be delivered from Lockheed’s Fort Worth site in Texas, with the remainder to be completed using a final assembly and check-out (FACO) line being established with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya. (Post)

The Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team is funded for 2014 and expected to return to a full demonstration schedule. The team is scheduled to perform 65 shows at 34 locations in 2014. They’ve been grounded most of 2013 due to sequestration. (Post)

-- Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, announced during the week the full operational capability of the command's five-center system. Prior to the reorganization, AFMC was made up of 12 centers. The Armament Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is under the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson, and Eglin's 96th Test Wing reports to the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

-- The 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron of the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit award and five individual awards from the Association of Old Crows. (Post)

-- The 96th Test Wing reached an historic testing milestone this summer. The 2,000th sled test mission was conducted at the 96th TW's Kinetic Energy Munitions Test Facility at the Eglin Test and Training Complex Test Area C-74. (Post)

-- Officials at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in West Bay, near Panama City, Fla., hope to get a $17 million crosswind runway by 2017. The board during the week accepted a $5.5 million grant from the Department of Transportation that's the first step in the process. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Corp.
, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $26.7 million modification to the existing contract to retrofit fielded Mission Training Centers with Out the Window visual systems upgrade and night vision goggles capability. Effort includes upgrades for F-22 Training Systems at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and other bases. … Electronic Metrology Laboratory LLC, Franklin, Tenn., was awarded a $9.6 million contract for base operating support services at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. Work is expected to be completed by November 2014. … Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc., Rancho Cordova, Calif., was awarded a $16 million contract for the procurement of a classified quantity of BLU-129 warhead casings. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … M1 Support Services, Denton, Texas, was awarded a $16.9 million modification to exercise option year two under a previously existing contract for T-38 support for the T-38 Companion Trainer program. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and other bases. … Asset Group Inc., Oklahoma City, Okla., was awarded $7.3 million task order under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract for renovations to building 600 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Work will be performed in Pensacola and is expected to be completed by January 2015.

LCS 1: Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom suffered flooding in its bilge from discharge piping from a gas turbine motor lube oil cooler on Oct. 20. The Freedom class LCS ships are built in Wisconsin and the Independence class variants are built in Mobile, Ala. (Post)
Tug: Construction of Signet Maritime's seventh ASD tug in less than four years, M/V Signet VIGILANT, is underway at Signet Shipbuilding & Repair in Pascagoula. The 30 metric ton vessel will be the first Castleman Maritime design for Signet with delivery slated for July 2014. (Post)
Anniversary: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., held a Family Day last weekend to commemorate 75 years of building ships on the banks of the Pascagoula River. Mississippi's largest private employer builds Aegis-guided missile destroyers, amphibious assault ships and amphibious transport ships for the U.S. Navy and National Security Cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard. (Post)
Lockheed: Lockheed Martin, Mission Systems and Training, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded a $21.4 million modification to previously awarded contract for AEGIS Weapon System work on the DDG 51 class ships. Twenty-six percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)
Somerset: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Avondale, La., delivered the amphibious transport dock Somerset (LPD 25) to the U.S. Navy. Somerset is the ninth ship in the San Antonio (LPD 17) class of ships Ingalls has delivered to the Navy. (Post)
NSC: The U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Hamilton was christened at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., Saturday. Hamilton is the fourth of eight planned ships in the Legend-class of technologically advanced multi-mission cutters. (Post)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week in review (10/13 to 10/19)

When the Aerospace Alliance was established in 2009, the most pressing goal was to get behind Mobile, Ala., and its effort to become home of an Air Force tanker manufacturing center. I recall thinking at the time that the group wouldn't last once a decision was made.

Well the tanker project went to Boeing and Washington state, but the Aerospace Alliance didn't go away. Here it is 2013, and the group that promotes aerospace activities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi hosted its third aerospace summit, this time in Huntsville, Ala.

More than 200 people showed up at the Von Braun Center for the two-day fall summit. It included discussions on commercial space activities and unmanned aerial systems, and there was an update on Airbus’ $600 million final assembly line being built in Mobile.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, pointed out the unusual nature of the Aerospace Alliance during his opening remarks. He said you don’t normally find states that compete with one another being engaged in a group where they collaborate like this.

"The aviation and aerospace sectors are critically important to the economies of these four states," Canfield said. Indeed, the four states are home to major NASA facilities, military aviation bases and operations of every major aerospace and defense company in the nation.

Facilities in the four states build, test and launch NASA vehicles, and are heavily involved in commercial and military space activities. It's where pilots are trained to fly and maintain the nation's most sophisticated aircraft in the military's inventory, and where both Boeing and Airbus are or will be building passenger jets. There are multiple aerospace clusters in the four states, including Huntsville, the Space Coast and the Gulf Coast I-10 corridor.

OK, while I'm on the subject of gatherings, Florida airports from Pensacola to Tallahassee next week will team up at a trade show in a single exhibit as part of a new marketing strategy to draw aerospace companies to the Panhandle.

The National Business Aviation Association’s Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas is Tuesday and Wednesday, and it’s one of the largest trade shows in the country.

Pensacola International Airport, Okaloosa County Airports, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Tallahassee Regional Airport will be working together under the Florida's Great Northwest banner. It's a first for the airports. (Post)

The Dutch air force will begin training pilots and ground personnel in the F-35A later this month at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Royal Netherlands Air Force personnel will initially begin with class-room training, then pilots and maintenance personnel will move to the tarmac in December to begin flying the F-35A and hands-on mechanical training. (Post)

-- Less than two weeks after the F-22's 10-year anniversary of arriving at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Team Tyndall achieved the 25,000th F-22 sortie during a 43rd Fighter Squadron Basic Course training mission Oct. 7. The 43rd FS is the only squadron in the world that trains and develops F-22 pilots. The students learn air-to-air combat techniques during their B-course training by primarily flying sorties against the T-38 Talon from the 325th Training Support Squadron and other fighters replicating adversary aircraft. (Post)

Meanwhile, Tyndall’s new F-22 Raptor squadron was officially named the 95th Fighter Squadron earlier this month. The unit is currently preparing for the transfer of 24 F-22s and more than 1,100 positions to the base.

The additional F-22s bring the total number of the fifth generation fighters to more than 50 at Tyndall. This is the largest contingent of F-22s at one location. Aircraft for the new squadron will start arriving in early 2014.

The squadron has started receiving an average of 50 to 60 personnel per month and will continue to do so for the next several months. The new squadron's arrival, which has been years in the making, will take Tyndall air power directly into a combat role. (Post)

The Navy's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator was named one of Popular Mechanics Magazine's 2013 Breakthrough Award recipients. In July the pilot-less X-47B built by Northrop Grumman landed aboard the USS George H.W. Bush. The magazine listed the jet under awards for innovators who changed the world in 2013. Northrop Grumman builds portions of the unmanned Fire Scout and all variants of the Global Hawk in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Boeing and Airbus
The Airbus A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., will be so efficient that when it swings into production in 2015 that one shift will be able to handle four planes per month by working
five days a week with no night work or weekends. That's what Jennifer Ogle, human resources director, said at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Roundtable during the week. (Post)

-- Airbus is poised to win a $5 billion order as Aeroenlaces Nacionales SA, the Mexican airline known as VivaAerobus, expands and upgrades its fleet of Boeing 737s. The deal is for 40 single-aisle A320neos with new engines and 12 of the current A320 models. VivaAerobus, Mexico's fourth-biggest carrier, may announce the transaction as soon as next week. (Post)

-- The French-American Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta chapter, is honoring Airbus during the 9th Annual Crystal Peach Awards luncheon next month at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Airbus Americas Inc. is being recognized for an economic development award. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

-- That government shutdown that finally ended during the week didn’t hurt Boeing, but did hurt Airbus. Financial Times reported that Airbus had been unable to deliver four jetliners to U.S. customers because the aircraft needed certificates or registrations from the Federal Aviation Administration. But Boeing has been approved by the FAA to inspect and approve several well-established aircraft types for delivery on the government’s behalf. (Post)

Rolls-Royce North America officially opened its second test stand at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, an investment of $50 million that will mean 35 new jobs when fully operational. SSC is where NASA and commercial companies test rocket engines, but Rolls-Royce opened its first jetliner engine test stand here in 2007. (Post)

-- Development of the engine designed for fuel-efficient versions of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 jet families are running smoothly, according to leaders of CFM International. CFM, a joint venture between GE and Safran, is making the new LEAP engines for the Airbus A320neo, the Boeing 737MAX and the COMAC C919 jet. (Post)

The fixed-wing variant of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System laser-guided rocket has wrapped up some successful tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.. Fixed wing APKWS uses a different guidance control system to compensate for the higher altitude and longer range employments of the weapon. During the tests at Eglin, APKWS rockets were fired from various aircraft at different altitudes. (Post)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week in review (10/6 to 10/12)

This just seems to be the year for Airbus.

The company, which is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., beat its full-year goal of selling 1,000 planes in just the first nine months of 2013. And now it's on track for selling more than 1,200 aircraft in 2013. It was just in July that Airbus sales chief John Leahy raised the expected sales figure from 800 to 1,000. (Post)

It's only natural that Airbus sales would be of high interest to Mobile. In addition to the final assembly line, it's also home to an engineering center. But one sales announcement during the week was also of interest to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Japan Airlines during the week announced a $9.5 billion order for 31 Airbus A350 XWBs, along with options for an additional 25 aircraft. Those JAL planes, 18 A350-900 and 13 A350-1000 aircraft, will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Those huge engines are tested at SSC at Rolls-Royce's outdoor test stand, which has been in operation in South Mississippi since 2007 and is the first RR test stand outside the United Kingdom. (Post)

That Rolls-Royce presence is growing. On Wednesday Rolls-Royce will officially open its second jet engine test stand at the outdoor facility. The test stand represents a $50 million investment. In addition to marking the official opening, Rolls-Royce will donate a Trent 1000 engine to Infinity Science Center, just outside SSC. The engine, which was tested at SSC, will serve as a centerpiece for aviation engineering and STEM career education.(Post)

The fifth-generation F-35fighter surpassed 10,000 flight hours last month, with more than half those hours accumulated in the past 11 months. The milestone was set by aircraft operating at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 training center, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Edwards AFB, Calif., Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and Nellis AFB, Nev.

Meanwhile, the first F-35 for Australia, a conventional takeoff and landing variant, is in production in Texas. AU-1 began the process where major components of the aircraft are joined together. Two F-35s for Australia are now in production and will be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force next year. (Post)

-- Two small cracks were found in one of four load-bearing wing bulkheads in an F-35B in August during airframe durability ground tests. Airframes are designed to last through 8,000 flight hours, and the cracks were found after the plane accumulated 9,400 hours. The Pentagon described the cracks as minor. The F-35B short-takeoff and vertical landing variant will be flown by Marines, the U.K., and Italy. (Post)

-- The Pentagon is going with the original team of Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems for the F-35 helmet, dropping an alternative design from BAE Systems. The helmet provides a 360-degree digital view, letting a pilot “look” through the cockpit floor and walls. In addition, data is projected directly onto the visor of the pilot, providing enhanced situational awareness. (Post)

The Municipal Airport at DeFuniak Springs, Fla., broke ground during the week for one of several projects to keep up with the community's growth. Construction will begin on 10 T-hangars, enclosed protective structures, to house an additional 20 planes. Several more hangars are expected in the near future. The airport runway is 4,146 feet long and officials are planning an extension that will make it at least 5,000 feet long. (Post)

In Florida, most of the civilians furloughed at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field went back to work after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the end of furloughs for almost all of the 350,000 defense department civilians who had been sent home. Over 3,750 employees from Eglin and Hurlburt were furloughed. (Post)

But the shutdown continues to cause problems. The Air Force Armament Museum just outside Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., closed early in the week. That followed a review of guidance from both the Air Force and the Department of Defense. The National Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., is also closed during the government shutdown. (Post)

Hero awarded
The Distinguished Flying Cross was presented during the week to Capt. John D. Easton during a ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Easton is assigned to the 86th Fighter Weapon Squadron and was honored for achievement while participating in aerial flight to successfully strike a strategic surface-to-air missile site in Libya. (Post)

Zumwalt: The christening of the future USS Zumwalt, slated for Oct. 19, has been postponed because of the government shutdown. The ship was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, but large composite structures on the ship were fabricated in Gulfport, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding. (Post)
LPD 25: The amphibious transport dock Somerset returned to the Ingalls Avondale, La., facility from successful U.S. Navy acceptance sea trials last month. (Post)
NSC: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., has started fabrication on the U.S. Coast Guard's sixth National Security Cutter, Munro. (Post)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week in review (9/29 to 10/5)

At this writing, folks from this region are keeping a close eye on the Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Storm Karen. It's weakening but will still cause some problems. Bases moved aircraft or secured them in hangars (post), and at least one airport had plans to close Saturday. (Story)

The storm is just the latest problem to hit. Earlier this month the government went into a partial shutdown. That's meant furloughs for federal workers and much uncertainty for anyone who works for a company that does work for the federal government.

All the events surrounding the 50th anniversary celebration at Pensacola's National Naval Aviation Museum were postponed to a date yet to be determined. The museum itself is also closed until further notice due to the furlough of museum employees. (Post)

The shutdown is even having an impact on this feed. The Pentagon is still awarding contracts, but it's not publicly announcing those awards because of the shutdown Oct. 1. It won't resume contract announcements until the shutdown ends, and when it does the plan is to catch up with one big announcement.

So, thanks Washington for the extra work. As it is, the list can be very long. The catch-up announcement will likely be a monster.

The military's awards notices, which reveal competitive and sometimes market-moving information, are closely followed by contractors, attorneys, investors and the media, including our daily news digest. And the number of items posted is significant. Out of 77 news briefs that were posted on the daily feed in September, 32 were contracts awarded by the Pentagon. Some were for local companies, some for projects that have ties to the Gulf Coast, like the F-35.

But before the shutdown, three contracts of interest to the Gulf Coast region were awarded and publicly announced. Two of those awards, both for military aircraft maintenance, went to L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC of Madison, Miss.

Regular readers will remember that last week's column mentioned four contracts that were awarded to L-3 Vertex for aircraft maintenance work, one worth $102.6 million and much of the work being done in this region.

During the past week, L-3 Vertex was awarded a $65 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for additional logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance required to support 36 T-45A and 168 T-45C aircraft based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., NAS Meridian, Miss., NAS Kingsville, Texas; and Patuxent River, Md. Most of the work will be done in Kingsville, Texas. But 36 percent will be done in Meridian and 6 percent in Pensacola. (Post)

The company was also awarded an $11 million modification to exercise option four of the existing contract for helicopter maintenance at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. That work is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2014. (Post)

In addition, a Shalimar, Fla., company, CCI Solutions LLC, was awarded an $11.6 million contract with options to repair airfield and roadway pavements. The work will be done at Homestead Army Reserve Base, Fla. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Economic development
Alabama's participation in the Paris Air Show last summer cost $86,609, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. The total expense of the June trip, including a booth, travel, lodging and meals for seven people, was $222,015. But it was offset by $135,406 in income from sponsors, reception passes and money from communities and companies who participated. (Post)

-- The two-day 17th annual Gulf Power Economic Symposium attracted a record 600 movers and shakers from Northwest Florida to the Sandestin Resort in Destin Monday and Tuesday. Workforce training was the most consistent theme, but the vision of a region on the cusp of change was the most compelling message. Much of the change was attributed to the Airbus’ A320 assembly plant being built in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

-- Some 400 Northwest Florida middle school, high school and vocational students participated in tours of manufacturing operations in order to see first-hand that manufacturing today is nothing like it was in the past. It was all part of National Manufacturing Day. The Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council hosted the tours at 11 facilities. (Story)

For a background story on manufacturing careers and training, take a look at a story that appeared in in September issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Quarterly. For a story on the creation of the manufacturers council, click here.

The Navy's version of the F-35 fighter was officially rolled out during a ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., during the week. The long-planned ceremony went on despite a shutdown of the federal government. Hundreds of guests attended in a hangar ceremony hosted by Strike Fighter Squadron 101. (Post)

Meanwhile, the Pentagon Inspector General found hundreds of flaws in the way defense contractors produced the F-35 fighter jet, flaws that led to a higher price tag for the fifth-generation fighter. The IG's 126-page report describes 719 "issues" with the jet's primary manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and five other major contractors.

It also listed failures of the F-35 Joint Program Office for not ensuring the prime and subcontractors were applying rigor to design, manufacturing, and quality assurance." Both Lockheed Martin and the JPO said the report was old news and that the issues have been mostly addressed. (Post)

-- The Japanese and U.S. government announced a sweeping defense cooperation effort between the two countries that involves F-35 fighters, new ballistic missile radars, and increased bilateral cyber and IRS programs. In addition, several U.S.-operated Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft will be based on Japanese soil beginning in 2014 at U.S. bases. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Orbital Science's Cygnus cargo spacecraft made history during the week when it successfully docked with the International Space Station. Cygnus was launched by Orbital's Antares rocket Sept. 18 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Cygnus is the second commercial spacecraft to dock with ISS. The SpaceX Dragon capsule was the first. The Antares engines were tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Stennis Space Center, it provided a $74,523 grant to a Loyola University New Orleans physics professor Patrick Garrity to do beta testing of his new invention. If his work proves successful, smart phones could one day be charged in a pocket using only body heat. Even sooner, rocket sensors needed to monitor an engine's health could use sensors powered solely by the heat generated from the rocket. (Post)

In Mississippi, Picayune Municipal Airport hopes to expand its runway so it can handle larger planes for the city north of Stennis Space Center. Director of Operations Andy Greenwood asked the council to approve a letter to SSC to expand the airport runway further into the buffer zone around NASA's primary rocket engine testing facility. The request is to extend the runway south by 2,000 feet to 7,000 feet. (Post)

-- Pilot error has been identified as the primary cause of the Feb. 28, 2012 helicopter crash that killed four crewmembers. The U.S. Coast Guard said there also were contributing factors, and said investigators concluded there was no misconduct involving the crash of the MH-65C helicopter. (Post)

Signal: Signal International, headquartered in Mobile, Ala., said new contract awards over the past month have prompted the company to hire 500 workers at its Pascagoula, Miss., yard this year. (Post)
BAE Systems: BAE Systems' Mobile, Ala., shipyard was chosen to build a subsea support vessel for Oceaneering International Inc., a gas and oil field engineering company. BAE Systems shipyards in Mobile and Jacksonville, Fla., employ about 1,300. (Post)
Signet: Signet Shipbuilding & Repair in Pascagoula, Miss., purchased a heavy lift crane for new construction and repair. (Post)
Lockheed: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $23.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Undersea Warfare Product Support across USW Systems. Three percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)