A "roadmap" to integrate robotic aircraft into the national airspace; additional Global Hawk sales; a major land sell-off by St. Joe; the first live-fire test of an air-to-air missile by an F-35; the removal of an officer from the F-35 program; and a grant to Pensacola to create a cyberwarfare center of excellence were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.
Here's the week in review:
The Federal Aviation Administration released its "roadmap" for allowing widespread use of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace, but it will take longer than Congress wants. The FAA said that for the next several years access of robotic aircraft will be limited to permits the FAA grants on a case-by-case basis.
Congress last year directed the FAA to grant drones widespread access by September 2015. Six sites nationwide will be chosen by FAA as test sites for the integration process. The I-10 region is already heavily involved in unmanned systems.
Fire Scout and Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., by Northrop Grumman, and the military thoughout this region uses drones in training, from hand-held types to full-scale target drones. And there's also the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, an internationally known research facility for robotics. (Post)
One of the unmanned systems built in part in Moss Point is the MQ-4C Triton, a Navy version of the unmanned Global Hawk surveillance system. It just passed an important milestone.
The wings on the Triton are made by Triumph Aerostructures - Vought Aircraft Division. Each wing, made of a single piece of composite material, was tested in Dallas by bending the wing to the point that it breaks.
The process revealed that the wing is 22 percent stronger than the Navy's requirement. The entire airframe will be fatigue tested in 2017. The Navy plans to buy 68 Tritons, plus two demonstrators. (Post)
-- A contract will be signed next year for South Korea to buy four Global Hawks for about $848 million. The U.S. Congress approved the export of Global Hawks to South Korea earlier this year. (Post) Meanwhile, the Air Force late in the week awarded Northrop Grumman a $114 million advance procurement contract in preparation to build three more Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawks and associated sensors.Work under this contract is expected to be completed in 2015. (Post)
While we're on the subject of building aircraft, Airbus chalked up 153 order bookings and 59 deliveries in October, bringing its backlog to nearly 5,400 aircraft. That’s eight years of output at full production rates.
The Airbus jetliner of highest interest to this region is the A320 family. That’s because Mobile, Ala., is where Airbus is building a final assembly line that will eventually have 1,000 employees.
For the single-aisle A320 family, October included Latin America's biggest Airbus aircraft order: VivaAerobus Group's booking for 40 new engine option A320neo aircraft and 12 A320 current engine option jetliners.
In the United States, JetBlue Airways’ acquisition of 15 A321ceo and 20 A321neo aircraft brought total A320 family bookings past the 10,000 order mark. The volume reached 10,025 as of Oct. 31. The 59 deliveries during the month were composed of 47 A320 Family aircraft, eight A330s and four A380s. (Company release)
-- In Mobile, Ala., Airbus is seeking its second human resources employee for the final assembly line that’s still under construction at Brookley Aeroplex. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources or a related field plus at least five years’ experience in human resources. The successful candidate will manage all recruitment activities and new employee orientation. (Post)
-- Airbus rival Boeing said it will re-examine alternative sites to build the 777X if assembly workers and local politicians don't ratify plans to build it in the Seattle area. That came after senior members of the machinists union voiced opposition to a labor contract due to go to membership this week.
The deal reached by Boeing and representatives of the main union calls for wings and fuselage of the 777X to be built in the Puget Sound area. It also calls for lower healthcare benefits and a new retirement plan, along with a separate draft agreement with the state for tax and other incentives. (Story)
An F-35 fired its first guided air-to-air missile over a military test range off the California coast late last month. The AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile was fired from an F-35A, the conventional take-off and landing version operating from the F-35 Integrated Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The pilot employed the AIM-120 radar-seeking missile from the internal weapons bay against an aerial drone target. Before the missile was about to destroy the target, a self-destruct signal was sent to the AIM-120 to preserve the drone for use in future use. The test was the day after an F-35B variant successfully dropped and air-to-ground GBU-12 Paveway II over a test range. (Post)
-- Over at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 pilot and maintenance training center, the maintenance commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing was removed from the post early in the week and put on staff duty for allegedly engaging in inappropriate behavior with subordinate female officers on his staff.
Navy Capt. Lance Massey II, who held the position since January, oversaw about 400 maintainers who work on the F-35s. An initial investigation determined Massey engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behaviors. (Post)
The St. Joe Co. announced an agreement Thursday to sell more than two-thirds of its Northwest Florida landholdings to Utah-based AgReserves Inc. The 382,834 acres of rural timberland is being sold for $565 million. That leaves St. Joe with about 184,000 acres of land primarily between Tallahassee and Destin.
The acreage being sold is in Bay, Calhoun, Frankly, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties. AgReserves intends to maintain timber and agricultural uses of the lands. St. Joe, originally a paper company and second largest landowner in Florida, in recent years became a real estate developer. It donated land to establish Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City. (Post)
-- A National Science Foundation study shows state government expenditures for research and development hit $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2011, up 11 percent from the previous year. Individual state government expenditures on R&D in FY 2011 varied widely, with New York, Ohio, Florida, California and Pennsylvania accounting for 51 percent of all state government R&D. For this region, Florida spent $150.8 million, Texas spent $47.4 million, Alabama spent $19.7 million, Louisiana $9.2 million and Mississippi $7.4 million. (Post)
Pensacola threw out the red carpet Monday to mark the start of Southwest Airlines service to Houston and Nashville. About 200 people showed up at Pensacola International Airport for the official welcoming, highlighted by the arrival of a Southwest jet from Nashville.
OK, it was actually the second plane to arrive from Nashville. The first one came in the day before. But passengers who got off the Monday morning arrival were greeted by a crowd that included city movers and shakers and others who just wanted to see what was going on. While the passengers got off the plane, a band played music on one side of the concourse.
A story in USA Today pointed out that Southwest is now flying its own aircraft to the last of the AirTran cities that Southwest did not serve when it bought Airtran in 2011. Southwest-branded service began last weekend not only in Pensacola, but Memphis and Richmond - the last of the former AirTran cities now getting Southwest branded planes. Southwest dropped more than a dozen of the AirTran cities it inherited after it bought the low-cost carrier. But it kept Pensacola and others, and kept both brands flying during the transition.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, Southwest has plans to launch international flights to Central America and Mexico sometime in the next year from Pensacola International Airport.
-- The Greater Pensacola Chamber was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Florida Defense Support Task Force to establish a center of excellence for information dominance. “The Center of Excellence is the culmination of our on-going relationship and collaboration with our federal partners at Corry Station,” said Craig Dalton, the chamber's vice president of armed services. (Post)
In another grant from the task force, the city of Niceville was awarded $25,000 to prevent future development from impeding missions at Eglin Air Force Base. Niceville will use it to upgrade mapping software to track data on where the city should regulate development so as not to interfere with any base mission. (Post)
Statewide, the task force awarded more than $2 million in grant initiatives to local community organizations supporting Florida military installations, according to a press release from Gov. Rick Scott's office. The grants are designed to protect Florida's military bases ahead of any potential realignment or closure actions. The bases have a $73 billion economic impact. Nearly 760,000 jobs in the state are due to the defense industry.
-- Two Navy pilots were injured during the week when a T-45C Goshawk crashed on the runway at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Sherman Field. The T-45 training jet was attempting to land when something went wrong. The plane belongs to Training Squadron 86 of Training Air Wing 6. (Post)
The crash was the Navy's first training aircraft crash since May 30, 2012, when a student and instructor from Training Squadron 22 ejected safely from another T-45C during a training flight 45 miles southwest of Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.
-- The 1st Special Operations Air Operations Squadron stood up during a squadron activation ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., during the week. The 1st SOAOS mission is to integrate 1st Special Operations Wing assets into Special Operations Forces training events, support U.S. Special Operations Command-direct missions, and execute tactical-level command and control of all U.S aircraft and deploying 1st SOW aircraft. (Post)
CTC Enterprise Ventures Corp., Johnstown, Pa., was awarded a $14.2 million modification to previously awarded contract for the production of 10 carriage, stream, tow and recovery system kits in support of the MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures program. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $19.8 million option exercise to an existing contract to retrofit fielded mission training centers with visual systems upgrade and night vision goggles capability. Effort includes upgrades for F-22 training systems at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and four other bases. … URS Group Inc., Mobile, Ala. was awarded a $13 million contract for architect-engineering services for the Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, to support the Air Force KC-46C aircraft beddown in the continental United States. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting agency.
Dry dock: VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., said its new floating dry dock is open for business and already has its first customers. The 546-foot long dock is part of an overall expansion plan at the south yard. (Post)
UNO: The University of New Orleans computer science department has been awarded a five-year, $663,000 research contract by the Naval Research Laboratory to develop next-generation defense mapping systems. (Post)
Ingalls: Pascagoula, Miss., Mayor Jim Blevins read a proclamation celebrating Ingalls Shipbuilding's 75th anniversary and voted to give the company a 10-year exemption on ad valorem taxes. (Post)
Training center: Ingalls Shipbuilding officially opened the 70,000 square-foot Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy in Pascagoula, Miss., during the week with a ribbon-cutting. (Post)
DDG 113: Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., held a keel authentication ceremony early in the week for the destroyer John Finn (DDG 113), the 29th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built at Ingalls. (Post)