Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week in review (11/17 to 11/23)

During the week, Airbus Americas President Allan McArtor was in Montgomery, Ala., for a few days and told the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce that suppliers who want to be close to Mobile's A320 assembly line might opt to set up shop in Montgomery. He said suppliers, including those in Europe, will want to gravitate toward the assembly facility over time. (Story)

That's in keeping with what McArtor has said before. He's pointed out multiple times that the "halo" of suppliers would extend several hundred miles from the plant at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, as far north as Tennessee. And Montgomery is certainly within that halo. It's 170 miles away from where the A320 assembly line is being built – a straight shot up Interstate 65.

But there are plenty of cities that know they are possible locations for suppliers, and each has its own unique pluses. Some have universities, some have aerospace parks, some are near other aerospace operations. Just take a look at the Interstate 10 corridor. To the east of Mobile Pensacola is 60 miles away and Crestview is 100. Head west from Mobile along I-10 and you’ll find Gulfport 75 miles away and New Orleans 145.

Stray a bit north or south of I-10 and you'll hit Hattiesburg, Miss., 97 miles from Mobile, Panama City, Fla., 186 miles, or Dothan, Ala., 197. Mobile is also relatively close to four state capitals. In addition to Montgomery 170 miles away, Mobile is 188 miles from Jackson, Miss., 200 miles from Baton Rouge, La., and 245 miles from Tallahassee.

Proximity is nice, but some Airbus officials have also pointed out that it's not necessary to be close to the assembly line. The numbers back that up. Even before establishing the plant in Mobile, Airbus had plenty of U.S. suppliers. David L. Williams, vice president of procurement for Airbus Americas, said during a visit to Seattle this summer that Washington State suppliers who want to do business with Airbus don't have to open new shops in Alabama or elsewhere globally to support the European company. (Story)

-- If there was ever any doubt that Airbus needs the Mobile assembly line, consider this: Airbus is thinking about an increase in the production rate of its A320 single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft that would take it beyond 42 planes per month.

That word came from sales chief John Leahy in a talk with Reuters during the Dubai Airshow. But Leahy didn't say when a decision would be made. Boeing recently raised its production target for the single-aisle 737 to 47 per month from a previous target of 42. Right now, the Mobile Airbus plant is slated to produce four aircraft per month. (Post)

The competing production rates of the two companies is just an indication of how intense their fight for single-aisle dominance has become. The Airbus-Boeing battle continued on the opening day of 2013 Dubai Airshow, with both companies announcing sales.

Etihad Airways, national airline of the United Arab Emirates, announced a firm order for 36 A320neo aircraft, 50 A350 XWBs and one A330-200F as part of its fleet modernization strategy. And Boeing and flydubai announced a commitment for up to 100 737 MAX 8 airplanes and 11 next-generation 737-800s. (Post)

Later at the air show, newly launched Libyan Wings signed a memorandum of understanding to buy four A320neo jetliners and three A350-900s. Libyan Wings will start operations for passenger charter and freight from the beginning of 2014. (Post)

-- This from our “oops” file. A group encouraging Washington state to keep up its fight to secure work on the new version of the Boeing 777 jetliner ran a full-page ad in the Seattle Times with a headline that said "The Future of Washington."

But instead of showing a Boeing jet it had an A320 built by Boeing rival Airbus. Washington state supporters are concerned that Boeing may place production of the plane in another state after a union earlier this month rejected a contract with significant labor concessions. (Post)

CFM International, the General Electric engine venture with Safran SA, will up output more than 10 percent by 2019 to meet growing demand from Airbus, Boeing and China's Comac. Production will hit 1,700 in six years, CFM Executive Vice President Chaker Chahrour said at the Dubai Air Show.

CFM International is the exclusive engine provider for Boeing 737 and Comac C919 and competes for orders with the Pratt and Whitney-led International Aero Engines joint venture on the Airbus A320. Boeing announced plans to boost 737 output 24 percent to 47 jets per month by 2017, with Airbus considering a move beyond a build rate of 42 planes.

In addition to the Airbus A320 assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala., Safran has an operation in Mobile and GE Aviation has engine parts plants in Ellisville, Miss., Batesville, Miss., and Auburn, Ala. (Post)

-- Rolls-Royce won a $5 billion order from Etihad Airways for Trent XWB engines to power 50 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft. The national airline of the United Arab Emirates ordered 24 A350-900 Regional, 16 A350-900 and 10 A350-1000 aircraft. The order takes the total number of Etihad A350 aircraft on order to 62, all powered by the Trent XWB.

The Trent XWB, specifically designed for the Airbus A350 XWB, powered the first test flight of the A350 XWB at Toulouse on 14 June this year. Etihad has also ordered Trent 700 engines to power one Airbus A330 freighter aircraft.

Rolls-Royce tests XWB and other Trent series engines at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

There were a lot of stories marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But one that we noticed was a story pointing out that Kennedy's commitment in the '60s to space exploration ended up turning parts of the rural South into science hotspots.

Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas all benefited when the federal government established NASA centers in Dixie with the task of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Areas like Huntsville, Ala., and Bay St. Louis, Miss., changed forever by being part of the "space crescent."

Add to that the earlier decisions by the military to place a lot of aviation-related military bases in the South and you understand a bit better why the Southeast is such a major player in aerospace and aviation. (Post)

-- NASA requested proposals from U.S. companies to complete development of crew transportation systems. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program is designed to ensure a company's crew transportation system is safe, reliable and cost-effective.

Requirements under CCtCap will include at least one crewed flight test to the space station before certification. NASA has not been able to launch astronauts in space from U.S. soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program. The crew program is part of the Space Launch System program.

Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, both are involved in NASA's SLS program, designed to take astronauts deeper in space than ever before. (Post)

-- NASA completed the first tests with an F/A-18 research jet to evaluate the autonomous flight control system for the Space Launch System rocket. The Adaptive Augmenting Controller will allow SLS to respond to vehicle and environmental variations such as winds or vehicle flexibility after it leaves the launch pad. It's the first time a flight control system for a NASA rocket is being designed to adjust autonomously to unexpected conditions during actual flight rather than pre-flight predictions. More than 40 tests were conducted this month at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

With passenger traffic projected to double in 20 years, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla., examined a growth concepts at a workshop during the week. The project manager presented six layout concepts for terminal expansion that would remedy expected deficiencies in concession space, public space, passenger screening areas and baggage areas. The concepts also map out two new terminal gates and reconfigure the seven existing gates to accommodate new airlines. Only four of the gates are currently utilized. (Post)

-- In Alabama, Enterprise Municipal Airport will be getting 200 helicopter maintenance jobs in the next year-and a-half, thanks to a resolution approved by the city council for a new facility. Brightwater Aviation Lender LLC of Chicago, parent company of Alabama Aircraft Support, was authorized a loan of $3.5 million from the city council for infrastructure of a $12 million project that would include a 60,000 square foot hangar.

The city passed a bond issue in 2011 for $12 million, $7.5 million of which was allotted for economic development. The $3.5 million loan will come out of those funds. The airport is not far from Fort Rucker, home of Army helicopter training. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, which builds the F135 engine that powers the Lockheed Martin's F-35, said it's seeing strong interest in the radar-evading warplane, but it would likely be several years before exports to the Gulf region are approved.

Carrol Chandler, a retired Air Force general who now serves as vice president of business development for PW, said the U.S. government would evaluate any requests from Gulf countries to buy the F-35, and then decide on a case-by-case basis.

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

Raytheon received the 1,000th AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile
rocket motor from Nammo Group of Raufoss, Norway. The motor is scheduled to be installed in a production AIM-120C7 missile later this month.

Following a lengthy qualification process in October 2012, Nammo was certified as an AMRAAM rocket motor supplier for Raytheon and has been delivering motors at the rate of about 90 motors per month. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is where aerial weapons systems are developed and tested. (Post)

Killed in action
A soldier from the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., died when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. He is the second soldier from the same unit to die in a four-day period. Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola, 29, of Keller, Texas, died Nov. 17, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when his unit was attacked while on dismounted patrol. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $300 million contract for development and production of multiple foreign military sales test vehicles and equipment, mission planning, mission operational flight program, test support, logistics support, sustainment, and non-recurring engineering. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Troy, Ala., with an expected completion date of Nov. 19, 2018. This contract involves foreign military sales with Finland and Australia. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Silver Ships: Silver Ships Inc., Theodore, Ala., and Gravois Aluminum Boats LLC, doing business as Metal Shark Aluminum Boats LLC, Jeanerette, La., are each being awarded separate firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts for the construction of high speed maneuverable surface targets. (Post)
Port: Amy Miller, the Port of Pensacola’s former chief financial and human resources officer, has been named director by Mayor Ashton Hayward. She's the first female director since the port's inception in the mid-1700s, and the only woman currently serving as port director in Florida. (Post)
NRL: The Naval Research Laboratory's Acoustics Division, with Bluefin Robotics, set a record 315-mile long-endurance autonomous research mission using Reliant, its heavyweight-class mine countermeasures underwater vehicle. (Post)
Signal: Signal International of Mobile, Ala., announced it's been awarded a contract to repair two oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. All the rig repair work will be done at its yard in Mississippi. (Post)
Errant drone: Two sailors were injured when the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville was struck by an errant BQM-74 target drone. (Post)
Survey ship: The USNS Bowditch oceanographic survey ship was first on scene off the coast of Tacloban, Republic of the Philippines, ensuring safe sea lanes in order for the George Washington Strike Group in support of Operation Damayan. (Post)

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