Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week in review (11/10 to 11/16)

It could be argued that a union vote in Washington State was one of the most significant stories for the aerospace industry. Perhaps it was the airline merger that is bound to have an impact on five of six commercial airports in the Gulf Coast I-10 region.

But the saddest was the death in Afghanistan of a 7th Special Forces Group soldier from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Here's your week in review:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during the week hailed the success of the agency's public-private partnership with American companies to resupply the International Space Station. He also announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts is set to begin this week.

The U.S. now has two space transportation systems capable of delivering science experiments and supplies from U.S. soil to the ISS. Commercial companies could begin ferrying NASA astronauts to ISS as soon as 2017.

On Tuesday NASA will issue a final Request for Proposals for the new Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in commercial space programs. (Post)

-- If you're a federal government worker, you're most satisfied if you work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. That's according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

In this year's survey, 376,577 federal employees provided their opinions on all aspects of their employment. The 2013 responses demonstrate a significant drop in employee satisfaction and continue last year's declines across the majority of questions. (Post)

-- NASA's Infinity Science Center just outside Stennis Space Center, Miss., is among five NASA centers that will host events and activities Monday for the public to view the launch of the agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft and learn about its mission. MAVEN, which launches 1:28 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., will help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history. (Post)

-- Speaking of Mars, a scientist from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., won an aerospace history literature award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. William J. Clancey will receive the 2014 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award in January for his book, "Working on Mars: Voyages of Scientific Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers."

The award honors the best original contribution to the field of aeronautical or astronautical historical non-fiction literature. The book is being hailed as giving a new perspective on remote planetary exploration. (Post)

Despite warnings from Boeing and pleas from politicians, members of the Machinists union mid-week voted 67 percent to reject a contract offer that would have assured the company builds the new 777X jet in Washington state. They said no to the proposed eight-year contract extension because it was laced with cuts to benefits.

Many members said they refused to be forced into a hasty and radical decision under a management threat that they would lose future work. The vote leaves in limbo an incentive package, including $8.7 billion in new tax breaks over 16 years that was passed in a special session of the Legislature.

Boeing, which also has operations along the Gulf Coast I-10 corridor, has said that if the IAM vote went against it, the company would seek other sites for the 777X project. Looking for other locations for the 777 plant doesn’t preclude further negotiation with the state and the union. (Post)

OK, here's my two cents. The planes will be built in Washington State, where it has the expertise, the workforce and plenty of incentives from the state.

-- Airbus received FAA certification of its Runway Overrun Prevention System for the Airbus A320 family, allowing for last week’s delivery of the first A320 family member featuring ROPS – an A319 to American Airlines.

American has elected to equip all of its A320 family fleet with the on-board cockpit technology that increases pilots’ situational awareness during landing, reduces exposure to runway excursion risk, and, if necessary, provides active protection. The European Aviation Safety Agency certified the system on the A320ceo family in August.

Airbus is building an A320 family final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., which is to build A319, A320 and A321 jetliners beginning in 2015. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin will close and consolidate several U.S. facilities and reduce its workforce by 4,000 to cut costs in response to declines in U.S. government spending. Operations will be closed in Newtown, Pa.; Akron, Ohio; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on the Sunnyvale, Calif., campus, also will be closed by mid-2015.

Lockheed Martin has operations across the Gulf Coast, including Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; and multiple offices of Lockheed Martin's Northwest Florida Operations, tied to the F-35, F-22 and other defense programs. (Post)

-- Raytheon will increase the size of its Forest, Miss., manufacturing facility by more than 20,000 square feet and hire more than 150 new workers. The expansion is to support anticipated growth in airborne radar and electronic warfare markets.

At 340,000 square feet, the plant already is one of the largest defense manufacturing plants in Mississippi. This year, the Forest plant ramped up its fighter jet radar production rates 10-fold. It also delivered more than 500 Active Electronically Scanned Array aircraft radars. In addition to fighter jet radars, the facility makes the Sentinel air defense radar, with 57 additional ones in production for the U.S. Army. (Post)

You'll have to get use to a new name for Brookley Aeroplex, the site where Airbus is building its A320 final assembly line. It’s going to happen slowly, but eventually the name will be Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.

The name Brookley Aeroplex isn't that old. It was back in December 2010 that the name was changed from Brookley Industrial Complex to Brookley Aeroplex. A brand new logo was introduced at the time.

Bill Sisson, the current head of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce who was executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority at the time, said the Brookley name was retained as a reminder of the former Air Force base that was closed in the 1960s. And Aeroplex was used because it reflects the multi-modal nature of Brookley.

About a month before the name was changed, when airport staff suggested Brookley Aeroplex, board members Matt Metcalfe and Bert Meisler said they would prefer to see the word "Brookley" replaced by "Mobile." But the issue was tabled.

The two board members apparently were right on target. Use the actual location as part of the name, the thinking goes, so folks know where it's located. That's what's done with the airport authority's name, and with the commercial airport run by the authority.

The airport has been known by a lot of names. It was, of course, Brookley Air Force Base, then folks referred to it either as Brookley Field, the industrial complex or the downtown airport. That one always made a lot of sense to me.

Name changes are simply not that uncommon. It’s all done in the name of marketing. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., better known by its abbreviation, EADS, decided in July to change its name to Airbus Group. That made sense because the company’s commercial airliner subsidiary has been highly successful. People know what an Airbus is. The changes begin in January and will be completed over the year.

-- The merger of American Airlines and US Airways will no doubt have an impact on the Gulf Coast region, but exactly how is still unclear. Airports in New Orleans, Gulfport, Miss., Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., all have both American and US Airways. The only one that doesn't is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla.

American and US Airways reached an antitrust settlement with the federal government to allow their $17 billion merger with limited concessions. The merged airline plans to use the American name. (Post)

-- A program to expedite screening of U.S. service members at some domestic airports is being expanded to include the Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard, beginning Dec. 20. The list of airports, which started with 10 when the Transportation Security Administration’s Precheck was launched in October 2011, has already been expanded once to 40 airports and is now being expanded to 100.

TSA Precheck allows service members to keep their footwear on as well as light outerwear, belts, laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry on in select screening lanes. Pensacola International Airport, Pensacola, Fla., and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport are among the airports with TSA Precheck. (Post)

-- Okaloosa County commissioners approved building a new parking area at Northwest Florida Regional Airport where visitors can park while they wait for arriving parties. County Airports Director Sunil Harman said the lot, which will be free and have 40 spaces, will ease congestion and improve customer service. It should be finished by March 2014. (Post)

The National Defense Industrial Association selected the F-35 communications, navigation and identification team from Northrop Grumman for the 2013 Ferguson Systems Engineering Excellence Group Award.

The award is given for outstanding achievement in the practical application of systems engineering principles. Northrop Grumman's integrated CNI system provides F-35 pilots with the capability of more than 27 avionics functions.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

A third aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, has now conducted flight operations of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator, the tail-less robotic aircraft built by Northrop Grumman.

The aircraft performed touch-and-go maneuvers, flight deck handling drills, arrested landings and catapult launches. The X-47B has also been tested on the USS Harry S. Truman and USS George H.W. Bush.

Two other Northrop Grumman unmanned aerial systems, Fire Scout and Global Hawk, are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Soldier dies
A soldier from the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was killed in action after his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. The Department of Defense said Staff Sgt. Richard L. Vazquez, 28, of Seguin, Texas, died Nov. 13 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His unit was attacked while on dismounted patrol in Panjwai, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin. (Post)

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Hurst, Texas, was awarded an $8.3 million contract for the manufacturing and delivery of three Bell 407 helicopters for the MQ-8C Fire Scout program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas; Mirabel, Canada; and Ozark, Ala., and is expected to be completed in June 2014. Portions of the work on the larger Fire Scouts will eventually be done in Moss Point, Miss. … Raytheon Missile Systems Division, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $18.8 million modification on an existing contract for High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile Targeting System contractor logistics support services. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBAS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

LHA 6: Ingalls Shipbuilding's multipurpose amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) returned to Pascagoula, Miss., last weekend from successful builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. (Post)
Austal: Austal USA is building some of the most cutting-edge ships in the Navy inventory, and it's become the largest private sector employer in Mobile County. A feature story. (Post)

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