The final truss of a hangar was put in place at the A320 final assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala.; a Pentagon report says software, maintenance and reliability issues could delay plans to start using the F-35B; $2.45 million is being awarded to 14 Florida communities with military installations; a new rear admiral takes over the training command in Pensacola, Fla.; an Army brigadier general is assigned to the aviation center at Fort Rucker, Ala.; and L-3 Crestview Aerospace cuts were among the aerospace stories of interest to the Gulf Coast I-10 region during the week.
Here's the week in review:
The final, signed truss was placed atop the main structure of the Airbus A320 final assembly line during the week. That's less than 10 months after ground was broken on the $600 million plant that will start producing Airbus' most popular jetliner starting in 2015.
Construction contracts for other buildings that will make up the Airbus campus will be awarded soon. The final assembly line, the first for Airbus in the United States, will eventually have about 1,000 workers and will build 40 to 50 jetliners a year by 2018. (Post)
In another Airbus-related story during the week, Canada's Magellan Aerospace said it will supply 5-axis machined wing ribs for Airbus' single aisle A320 family, including the A320neo. Magellan will invest in a new high-speed, 5-axis machining center in its facility in Greyabbey, Northern Ireland. Magellan is a public company with operating units throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Poland. (Post)
A Pentagon report warns that software, maintenance and reliability problems with the F-35 could delay the Marine Corps' plans to start using its F-35B jets by mid-2015. The report by the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, forecasts a possible 13-month delay in completing testing of the Block 2B software needed for the Marine Corps to clear the jets for initial combat use next year. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)
Another report by a think tank takes issue with the number of jobs tied to the F-35 program.
Lockheed Martin says the F-35 program supports 125,000 jobs in the United States. But William Hartung, a longtime critic of the F-35, said in a report by the Center for International Policy that standard estimating procedures used by other studies would put the number of jobs closer to 50,000 to 60,000. Lockheed defended its estimate, which is based on 32,500 direct jobs and adds 92,500 indirect jobs. (Post)
In another F-35-related story, a former employee of Pratt and Whitney accused of trying to ship boxes of stolen information on the F-35 to Iran has been indicted by a federal grand jury. Mozaffar Khazaee, born in Iran but a naturalized American citizen since 1991, is charged with two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property. He was arrested Jan. 9 at Newark International Airport. (Post)
Defense grants totaling $2.45 million will be awarded to 14 communities with military bases. Escambia County is getting $250,000, Santa Rosa County $280,000, Okaloosa $300,000, Walton County $60,000 and Bay County $100,000, according to published reports. Part of the money is earmarked to buy land around the bases to prevent encroachment, and part for community relations and economic development. (Post)
-- The Naval Education and Training Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., has a new leader. Rear Adm. Mike White took command during a ceremony Friday afternoon. White is a naval aviator whose most recent duty was commander of Carrier Strike Group 11. The previous commander, Rear Adm. Don Quinn, is retiring after 35 years of service. (Post)
-- Brig. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., has been assigned to commanding general, Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Fort Rucker, Ala. (Post)
-- Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., recently held an exercise designed to increase the combat prowess of F-22 pilots of the 43rd and 95th Fighter Squadrons. The simulated air combat mission pulled together aircraft in an atmosphere the pilots might see on a real battlefield. The event featured Mitsubishi MU-2 aircraft, F-4 Phantoms, F-16 Fighting Falcons from Luke AFB, Ariz., T-38 Talons and F-22s. (Post)
For Crestview, Fla., there was good news and there was bad news.
The bad news: L-3 Crestview Aerospace over the past few weeks has eliminated some 10 percent of its workforce, or about 100 people. The company still employs more than 850 people at Bob Sikes Airport. Spokesman Lance Martin said the layoffs resulted from a lower volume of work in L-3’s U.S. defense programs and delays in the awarding of a commercial contract. (Post)
The good news: A company that will help train aerospace workers will open a branch at Okaloosa Industrial Air Park at Bob Sikes Airport. Carolina Aeronautical Airframe and Powerplant of Simpsonville, S.C., specializes in courses for FAA certification for aircraft mechanics. Beginning in March, Carolina Aero Prep Panhandle Campus initially will offer training for veterans or retired military aircraft maintainers. (Post)
While we're on the subject of training, south of Crestview in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., enrollment is up at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Institute and courses are already planned for the next three years. Enrollment went from 60 Choctawhatchee and Crestview high schools to 155 this year with the introduction of an evening class and unmanned aerial vehicle course. Next year Embry-Riddle plans to add engineering courses. (Post)
Meanwhile, to the north of the Florida Panhandle in Enterprise, Ala., a new $12 million aircraft maintenance hangar for Brightwater Aviation Properties will be built by BL Harbert International of Birmingham. Alabama Aircraft Support will operate the facility that will repair and maintain helicopters, creating up to 200 jobs. The project is slated to be finished in October. (Post)
To the west in Foley, Ala., U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), on a statewide jobs and industry tour, stopped at UTC Aerospace Systems early in the week. The largest manufacturing employer in Baldwin County was the seventh stop on his tour. The aerostructures business unit designs, builds and supports nacelle systems for commercial and military aircraft. (Post)
Defense and aeronautics engineering group Safran will buy aerospace businesses from Eaton Corp. for $270 million in cash. Safran will acquire Eaton's Aerospace Power Distribution Management Solutions, which makes key contactor and circuit breakers for jets, and Eaton's Cockpit Solutions. Safran has an engineering center in Mobile, Ala.; Eaton has a hydraulic systems center in Jackson, Miss. (Post)
B3H Corp., Shalimar, Fla., was awarded a $6.9 million task order for an existing contract for English language instructors and an English language training program using Defense Language Institute English Language Center courseware, methodology and processes. .. L-3 Communications, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $129 million contract modification for maintenance and modification of the Army C-12/RC-12/UC-35 fixed wing aircraft fleet. Work will be performed in Madison, Miss. … General PAE Applied Technologies LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $28 million contract modification exercising the option for Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., base operations support services. Work will be performed at Keesler. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler, is the contracting activity.
Supply vessel: Gulf Coast Shipyard Group Inc., Gulfport, Miss., launch the first of six Harvey Gulf International Marine dual-fuel offshore supply vessels. The vessel will be christened and put into service a few months later. (Post)
Support boats: Silver Ships of Theodore, Ala., was awarded a contract to provide 36 surface support vessels to the Navy. (Post)