Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week in review (12/15 to 12/21)

A Mobile aerospace company's expansion into Pensacola; 200 helicopter repair jobs in Enterprise; anticipation over the FAA's expected announcement about unmanned aerial system test sites; a high ranking for NASA's Stennis Space Center; and a first for the Dutch with the F-35 were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward signed a memorandum of understanding with ST Aerospace to expand into the city with an operation at Pensacola International Airport's Commerce Park. It would eventually bring 300 jobs to Pensacola. Hayward said the next step is for the city to enter contract negotiations with company executives, which could take several months.

ST Aerospace has a 1,500-employee maintenance, repair and overhaul operation in Mobile, Ala., where it's been since 1991. The company, part of Singapore Technologies, has been talking to Pensacola about the expansion for 18 months. (Post)

The Pensacola News Journal reported Saturday that the city would build a hangar and other facilities on 18.66 acres of city-owned land at the airport at a cost of $37.34 million. ST Aerospace would lease it for 30 years, with a purchase option at the end of the period. There are also options for additional acres. The company's contribution would not exceed $7.24 million.

Speaking of new operations, Enterprise, Ala., is getting about 200 helicopter maintenance jobs in the next year-and-a-half thanks to Alabama Aircraft Support. It plans to build a $12 million hangar at the Enterprise Municipal Airport.

The company does military and civilian helicopter repair work, and will be located not far from Fort Rucker, home of Army helicopter aviation, and Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., where naval aviators are trained. A formal groundbreaking is next month. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is trying to settle on an identity. A study by Market Dynamics Research Group shows many passengers feel the current name is too vague. The findings, part of a six-month branding campaign, were presented to Okaloosa County commissioners this week. Airports Director Sunil Harman expects to present MDRG's recommendations to the board by next summer. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla., marked the completion of construction on the new covered parking project that provides nearly 300 covered parking spots. Airport passengers now have three parking options available: covered, short-term and long-term. (Post)

-- Southwest Airlines will add a direct flight from New Orleans to San Diego. The new service at Louis Armstrong International Airport will begin in April. The airline also is starting a non-stop flight to Atlanta in January. Aviation Director Iftikhar Ahmad said the San Diego flight will raise the number of direct flights from New Orleans to 39. (Post)

Economic development officials nationwide are waiting to hear from the Federal Aviation Administration on where it will place research and test sites for unmanned aerial systems. The FAA decision could be worth billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of new jobs.

Mississippi's site would be at Camp Shelby, near Hattiesburg, where the National Guard has been testing Predator drones for years. That's according to James Poss, a retired Air Force major general who now directs strategic initiatives at the High Performance Computing Collaboratory at Mississippi State University. (Post)

Earlier this month Camp Shelby launched a research program that officials think will help attract companies interested in unmanned systems to South Mississippi and the broader region. The Open Source Unmanned Remote and Autonomous Vehicle Systems program merges unmanned systems and open source software. Camp Shelby has access to nearly 100 square miles of restricted air space and in 2012 was chosen as the regional flight center for the Army National Guard's Unmanned Aircraft System.

-- Northrop Grumman, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and a team of international science organizations flew a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system through Canadian airspace as part of a mission to collect environmental data in the Canadian Arctic. Information collected during this flight will be used by American and Canadian scientists to study changes in topography and Arctic ice caps. This flight marks the first time the NASA Global Hawk has flown through Canadian civil airspace. Global Hawk center fuselages are now built in part in Moss Point, Miss., but the NASA versions are earlier variants. (Post)

A survey of best places to work in the federal government shows NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center as second among organizations within large agencies. SSC scored 84.3, up from 84.2 last year.

The Partnership for Public Service's 2013 rankings is based on a survey of 2 million federal employees. It shows NASA ranked number one in the large agency list. NASA scored 74, up from last year's 72.8 and bucking a general trend where federal employees throughout the government are increasingly dissatisfied with the jobs and workplaces. (Post)

-- NASA selected Space Exploration Technologies Corp., SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., to begin negotiations on a lease to use and operate historic Launch Complex 39A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Permitting use of the pad by a private-sector, commercial space partner will ensure its continued viability and allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities. SpaceX will be testing its Raptor engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Alcoa signed a multi-year supply agreement with Airbus valued at $110 million for value-add titanium and aluminum aerospace forgings. Alcoa will produce the parts using its recently modernized 50,000-ton press in Cleveland, Ohio.

Alcoa will supply titanium parts, including forgings used to connect the wing structure to the engine, for the A320neo. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

-- Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding with EGTS International, a joint venture of Safran and Honeywell Aerospace, to further develop an autonomous electric pushback and taxiing solution for the A320 family. EGTS International’s Electric Green Taxiing System is being evaluated as a new option on the A320 family. It would allow the aircraft to push-back from the gate without a tug, taxi-out to the runway, and return to the gate after landing without operating the main engines. (Post)

A Dutch pilot took to the skies in an F-35A, making the Netherlands the second partner country to operate the fifth-generation multirole fighter. Maj. Laurens J.W. Vijge, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Integrated Training Center training lead, completed his first flight after 210 hours of classroom training and 13 flights in the simulators. The Netherlands has two aircraft stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the Integrated Training Center. (Post)

Speaking of F-35 partners, Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. delivered its first F-35 center fuselage at a Dec. 11 ceremony at TAI's facilities in Ankara, Turkey. It was the first F-35 center fuselage made by TAI as a partner of Northrop Grumman. It will be installed into an Air Force F-35 being built at Lockheed Martin's facilities in Fort Worth, Texas. (Post)

-- The F-35 jet fighter, designed for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, is likely to end up costing more than it would to build separate planes for each service. That's according to a Rand study. But Lockheed Martin's general manager for the F-35 pledged that by 2019, the F-35A will cost $75 million a copy in current dollars, "less than any fourth generation fighter in the world." (Post)

A Beechcraft Bonanza G36 lost power and crashed during the week in a heavily wooded area of southeast Bay County, killing the pilot. No passengers were on board when the plane crashed a mile east of the Sandy Creek Airpark. The victim was Larry Eli Caison, 52, of Destin. The aircraft was registered to Grey Aviation of Destin. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a modification not to exceed $231.5 million for an existing contract for F119 engine sustainment. There are multiple work sites, including Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. … Raytheon Missiles Systems, Tucson Ariz., was awarded a $40 million contract for system improvements of the AIM-120D missile. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBA, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $216.5 million contract and a $232.5 million contract for the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) Baseline Missiles and more. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity for both awards.

BAE: BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards Alabama LLC, Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $32.9 million contract for the regular maintenance and overhaul of T-AOE 6. Work will be done in Mobile and is expected to be completed by October 2014. (Post)
Contracts: JCON Group, Construction and Design, Miami, Fla.; Orocon -- Carother Joint Venture 1, Oxford, Miss.; Mitchell Industrial Contractors Inc., and Brasfield and Gorrie LLC, a Joint Venture, Madison, Ala.; PentaCon LLC, Catoosa, Okla.; TMG Services Inc., Cleveland, Ohio; and Leebcor Services LLC, Williamsburg, Va., were awarded construction contracts for projects located primarily within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast area of responsibility. (Post)
LCS 6: The future USS Jackson launched from the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., last weekend. The ship's christening, a ceremony that marks the official naming of the vessel, is planned for the spring. (Post)

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