Saturday, December 14, 2013

Week in review (12/8 to 12/14)

There were a lot of stories during the week that are of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region, including a Florida group's trip to Germany; more moves by Boeing to shift work from Washington State; Airbus parent EADS' plans to cut 5,800 jobs in Europe; a new unmanned systems research program at Camp Shelby, Miss.; the rollout of the 100th F-35; and the first shipment of an engine parts plant in Ellisville, Miss.

In addition, the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League published the latest issue of its quarterly aerospace newsletter on Tuesday. The 8-page newsletter highlights aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast Interstate 10 region, and I must tell you it's a terrific read. OK, I'm a member of the League so I may be partial. You can get the newsletter by clicking here.

Now for your week in review:

Economic development
Some 30 leaders from five counties in Northwest Florida were in Hamburg, Germany, during the week to pitch the Panhandle to aerospace suppliers. The group, called the Northwest Florida Aerospace Coalition, attended the Coalition-sponsored leadership forum, and toured aerospace facilities, including the Airbus plant in Hamburg.

They heard the same message that was heard in an earlier visit to Hamburg by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson: It will take a long time for European suppliers to commit to setting up shop near the Airbus plant in Mobile. (Post)

-- The newsletter I mentioned above has a feature story about Baldwin County and its aerospace footprint. It's home to a plant owned by the world's 9th largest defense contractor, and it has smaller operations that are looking to expand. (Story)

-- The newsletter also has a story about efforts in Northwest Florida to create "shovel ready" sites for companies that come calling, including aerospace companies. Thirteen sites with a total of nearly 6,200 acres across the Panhandle are now moving towards certification. (Story)

-- Texas-based Bell Helicopter picked Louisiana's Lafayette Regional Airport for a plant that will assemble the company’s new line of Short Light Single (SLS) helicopters. Bell will lease a new $26.3 million, 82,300-square-foot hangar facility at the airport.

Bell will invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling in the project, which will create 115 direct jobs, and 136 indirect jobs. The SLS is a five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter. The decision places another aircraft assembly plant along the Interstate 10 corridor, this one to the west of Baton Rouge. (Post)

Late in the week at Camp Shelby, Miss., a research program was launched that could help attract companies interested in unmanned systems to South Mississippi and perhaps the broader region.

The Open Source Unmanned Remote and Autonomous Vehicle Systems program merges two hot fields: unmanned systems and open source software. It's designed to drive innovation and reduce costs. The program involves the military, Department of Homeland Security and others, including the Open Source Software Institute.

Camp Shelby has access to nearly 100 square miles of restricted air space and currently operates training and testing facilities for a variety of military, government, and other organizations. In 2012 it was chosen as the regional flight center for the Army National Guard's Unmanned Aircraft System.

The research program is based at Camp Shelby and administered in conjunction with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, DHS, Defense Acquisition University and non-government entities. (Post)

This is just the latest development in this region's involvement in unmanned systems.

Some 80 miles from Camp Shelby at Stennis Space Center, Miss., special forces train with unmanned aerial systems in secluded areas surrounding the NASA facility. And some 90 miles from Camp Shelby in Moss Point, Northrop Grumman builds portions of its Global Hawk and Fire Scout drones.

About 200 miles away from Camp Shelby in Okaloosa County, Fla., efforts are underway to establish a $4.5 million research facility for all types of unmanned systems at a center just outside of Eglin Air Force Base in Shalimar, Fla. The newsletter I mentioned has a feature story about it. (Story)

All of this is especially interesting in light of the pending decision by the Federal Aviation Administration on where to establish six UAS centers that will be used to introduce robotic aircraft into the national airspace.

Airbus parent EADS will cut 5,800 jobs in Europe in a three-year restructuring of its defense and space activities. The restructuring will lead to a substantial consolidation of sites across Germany, France, Spain and the UK, where cuts will be made.

The restructuring coincides with plans to merge the company's defense and space divisions into one unit combining its share of Eurofighter combat jets and Ariane space rockets as the defense industry absorbs government budget cuts.

Airbus is building a 1,000-worker A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

-- The machinists union leadership in Washington State has rejected a "best and final" contract proposal that would ensure Boeing would build its next-generation 777X airliner in the state. The announcement came after the third day of meetings between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751.

The talks were the first between the two sides since the union overwhelmingly voted to reject an eight-year contract extension last month. Boeing has been looking at other locations to build the 777X, including Huntsville, Ala. Boeing rival Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Meanwhile, Boeing plans to restructure its Boeing Research & Technology organization, the company's central R&D unit, through the establishment of research centers in Huntsville, Ala.; Southern California; St. Louis; North Charleston, S.C.; and Seattle.

Huntsville's center will be Simulation and Decision Analytics and Metals and Chemical Technology. BR&T employee totals are expected to grow between 300-400 each in Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina. BR&T jobs in Washington are expected to decrease by 800-1,200, and BR&T jobs in California are expected to decrease by 200-300. (Post)

-- Air Canada will buy up to 109 of Boeing Co's 737 MAX under its narrow-body fleet renewal plan. The agreement will replace Air Canada's existing mainline fleet of Airbus narrow-body aircraft, the carrier said. The deal marks a substantial competitive victory for Boeing over Airbus and a rebound on its home turf after Airbus displaced it at low-cost Mexican airline VivaAerobus in a fierce contest earlier this year. (Post)

Lockheed Martin celebrated the production of its 100th F-35 in an event attended by 2,000 employees and guests. The first 100 planes include 44 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants, 42 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants and 14 F-35C carrier variants.

The Department of Defense gets 95 of the first 100 jets from the F-35 assembly line here. Three F-35B aircraft were delivered to the United Kingdom and two F-35As have been delivered to the Netherlands. The 100th aircraft, an F-35A designated AF-41, is the first of 144 F-35s scheduled for delivery to Luke AFB beginning in 2014. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

An Air Force plan to use Blackwater State Forest for training drew a crowd of about 200 to a meeting in Milton, Fla., many of them opposed to the plan. The Air Force said the maneuvers would only be held with monitoring by the Florida Forest Service. But some in the audience criticized that state agency too. (Post)

-- A Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape refresher course is coming February to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The SERE course teaches pilots and service members who are at high risk of capture, the skills to survive, evade, resist and escape while upholding the code of conduct. (Post)

-- The only special operations wing in the Air Force Reserve has a new leader. Col. James Phillips took command of the 919th Special Operations Wing during a ceremony at Duke Field last weekend. Phillips succeeds Col. Anthony Comtois, who left in September to become commander of the Joint Special Operations Air Component for Special Operations Command Africa. (Post)

The newsletter I mentioned earlier has a cover story about John C. Stennis Space Center, and how the decision by SpaceX to use SSC to test its Raptor engine was a big win for the facility. That added another commercial company to SSC's already impressive roster of companies. (Story)

-- A Rocketdyne J-2X engine was tested last week for 325 seconds on the A-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. The engine is planned for use on the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System, which will take astronauts further into space then every before. The J-2X was also tested in early November. (Post)

The Nexcelle joint venture of Safran's Aircelle and GE Aviation's Middle River Aircraft Systems, which is building engine nacelles for the next generation of integrated propulsion systems, marked a key program milestone by shipping its initial major production component: the No. 1 inlet for GE Aviation’s Passport business jet engine. It's also the first element to be completed at the new GE Composites factory in Ellisville, near Hattiesburg.

The Nexcelle air inlet was transported from Ellisville to GE Aviation's Peebles Test Operation in Ohio, where it will be integrated with a Passport engine for propulsion system icing testing in Canada. Nexcelle was created 2008, and supplies the nacelle systems for the Passport for Bombardier's Global 7000 and Global 8000 business aircraft and the CFM International LEAP-1C on COMAC’s C919 airliner. (Post)

Circle City Telcom Inc., Ala., was awarded a $7.9 million contract to complete the installation and testing of upgrades to the information technology infrastructure at Fort Rucker, Ala. Estimated completion date is Dec. 11, 2014. Work will be performed at Fort Rucker. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island Arsenal Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity. Fort Rucker is a center for Army aviation training. (Post)

Edenzon: Irwin F. Edenzon, corporate vice president and president of Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., will retire on Dec. 1, 2014. (Post)
Academy: Jackson County, Miss., supervisors hired a grant administrator, engineer and architect for a basic skills training annex addition on Ingalls Shipbuilding's Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)
Contract: Sechan Electronics Inc., Lititz, Pa., was awarded a $17.2 million contract for procurement of the Target Detecting Device MK 71 Mod 1 to support the Quickstrike Mine Improvement program. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity (Post)

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