Saturday, February 22, 2014

Week in review (2/16 to 2/22)

The president of the International Association of Machinists union sounded a pretty positive note to The Street when he spoke about that union's hope to organize the Airbus plant in Alabama and Boeing plant in South Carolina.

"I really believe we have a fair chance of pulling this off," said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the IAM. "Our union was founded in the South (and) we already have thousands of members in Alabama."

As far as Airbus is concerned, employees have the right to choose representation if they want it. The company is building an A320 final assembly line at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley that will open in 2015 and deliver its first aircraft in 2016. It will eventually have 1,000 workers. Whether it will have a union remains to be seen. (Post)

But Buffenbarger’s optimism isn't without reason. Alabama is a right-to-work state, just like its neighbors. But it's far more unionized than its neighbors. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released last month, Alabama's union membership in 2013 was 10.7 percent of the workforce, a bit below the U.S. average of 11.3 percent. If the number of workers represented by unions is considered, the number goes to 11.7 percent.

That's far and away above Mississippi's 3.7 percent union membership, Georgia's 5.3 percent, Florida's 5.4 percent or Tennessee's 6.1 percent. And South Carolina, where the union wants to try again at the Boeing plant? Union membership in 2013 was the same as Mississippi's, 3.7 percent.

The BLS points out that union membership rates declined between 2012 and 2013 in 26 states, rose in 22 states and the District of Columbia, and remained unchanged in two states. Alabama and South Carolina were among the states where union membership increased.

-- In other Airbus-related news, Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines plans to order up to 30 Airbus A320s worth $3 billion. Reuters reported that the airline hopes to divide the order between the current model and the A320neo. Shanghai-based Spring, which has a fleet of 40 A320s, is the largest dedicated budget carrier in China. (Post)

-- The Mobile City Council during the week OKd the last city-related road contracts associated with the redevelopment of the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. Under the $1.4 million deal, Gulf Equipment Corp. will make improvements to Baker Street, a link between the Alabama state docks and the assembly plant. Some $20 million in taxpayer investment has been spent improving Aeroplex roads ahead of the plant's 2015 opening. (Post)

-- Herbert Meisler was elected chairman of the Mobile Airport Authority's board of directors. He succeeds Richard Davis, who retired after serving in that position for 14 years. The MAA, which overseas Mobile Regional Airport and Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, also appointed W. Lance Covan
and Michael Pierce to the board. (Post)

Economic development
Pensacola and Escambia County officials are going back to the drawing board to decide how to split $8 million in incentives needed to seal the deal on an aircraft maintenance facility proposed for Pensacola International Airport. The initial agreement called for the county to contribute $4.8 million and loan the city another $3.2 million to be repaid by 2020. Now commissioners want the city to contribute more. ST Aerospace, which has an operation in Mobile, Ala., wants to establish a facility in Pensacola on nearly 19 acres of city-owned land at the airport. (Post)

-- Boeing during the week made official what it already promised. The company said Everett, Wash., will be the site of a new composite wing center for the 777X. Boeing agreed to build the 777X in Everett following the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 approval of an eight-year contract extension in January. As part of the deal Boeing agreed to place the wing center in the Puget Sound region. It will go north of the 777X assembly site. The union vote came after Boeing started looking elsewhere for sites, including Alabama, to build the plane. (Post)

Two F-35Bs flew in formation while in short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) mode for the first time recently at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The pilots flew the test jets in STOVL mode with the F-35B LiftFan engaged and engine rotated downward. The mission measured the effects the aircraft had on each other to ensure they can operate in formation safely in an operational environment. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $9.6 million modification to a previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract during the week. It provides for Netherlands-specific, non-recurring sustainment activities to include procurement of Autonomic Logistics Information Systems equipment and logistics support for non-recurring engineering activities. Work is expected to be completed in April 2015. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Engine testing at the Rolls-Royce Outdoor Jet Engine Testing Facility has been going nearly nonstop since the ceremonial ribbon was cut in October. The test stand, the company's second at this South Mississippi NASA facility, represents a $50 million investment. Rolls-Royce is still filling the last of the 35 jobs the new test stand created. The first stand at Stennis opened in 2007. (Post)

In another Rolls-Royce matter, the company was awarded a contract for $182.7 million by the Air Force to expand the company's support of the C-130J transport fleet. The contract covers sustainment services for the Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engines as well as nacelles and propellers on the C-130J fleet. Rolls-Royce now provides C-130J support at 10 Air Force bases in the U.S. and two overseas. (Post)

Sikorsky during the week announced the award of a $110 million maintenance and support services contract for more than 360 aircraft operated by the Texas-based Chief of Naval Air Training. The work is expected to be completed in October 2014.

Aircraft covered by the contract include the single-engine T-34, twin engine T-44A and T-44C, and single-engine T-6A and T-6B. Work will be performed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., NAS Whiting Field, Fla., NAS Corpus Christi, Texas; and seven satellite locations throughout the United States.

The contract was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies, which also operates an aircraft service center in Foley, Ala. (Post)

-- The University of Pittsburgh launched a Warrior Human Performance Research Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla., to conduct performance-optimization and injury-prevention research. The lab with the Air Force Special Operations Command brings the 8-year-old program to a third military branch. It already has sites at three Naval Special Warfare SEALs operations, including Stennis Space Center, Miss., and at one Army Special Operations post. The Warrior Human Performance Research Centers help to design physical-training programs to improve performance and reduce injury. (Post)

-- The U.S. Navy DoD Supercomputing Resource Center at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., is adding more computer power to its operation. Starting in August, the new $21.8-million computers from Cray Inc. will be put to work performing large-scale scientific calculations for Department of Defense researchers around the county. The Navy DSRC is one of five supercomputing centers established by the DoD. (Post)

-- J.D. Lord, the contractor who died in an accident on base last month, entered the foam-filled airplane hangar against the advice of emergency personnel, according to an Air Force report. The 31-year-old and three co-workers wanted to see the foam that filled the massive King Hangar during an accidental activation of the fire-suppression system, the report said. The foam was dispensed after cold temperatures caused a water line to burst, flooding sensors in the hangar’s fire-suppression system and accidentally triggering the release of the high-expansion foam. (Post)

-- Army Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum was nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as deputy commanding general/chief of staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. Mangum is currently the commanding general, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Fort Rucker, Ala. (Post)

-- Twelve airmen graduated from the Undergraduate Air Battle Manager training program in a ceremony Feb.19 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The students completed a nine-month course to prepare for duty aboard the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System and the E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System aircraft. (Post)

-- Keesler Medical Center earned its second consecutive Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Award. Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum, 81st Medical Group commander, presented the 2013 award to facility manager Michael Chatham, 81st Medical Support Squadron, at a Feb. 11 executive staff meeting. The energy-conservation elements were incorporated during construction following the August 2005 Hurricane Katrina. (Post)

The first of eight Orbital Sciences' cargo missions to the International Space Station was successfully completed. The Cygnus spacecraft completed a 37-day stay at the orbiting laboratory, then re-entered Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean during the week. Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. The company's Antares launch vehicles is powered by engines tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- A University of Southern Mississippi project hopes to get a step closer to seeing if an Earth-born organism can live on Mars. USM Professor Scott Milroy learned his NASA-funded "Pioneering Mars" project was selected for payload integration aboard the International Space Station.

Milroy's project is one of two chosen from the NASA ISS National Laboratory Education Project for transport to the ISS sometime in 2015. Milroy notes that while many of the physical, chemical, and climatic conditions of Mars can be simulated in an Earth-bound laboratory, the capability to maintain living cultures, like the blue-green algae in this experiment, in reduced gravity conditions can only be explored on the ISS. Milroy is an associate professor of marine science. (Post)

With high-tech science and technology jobs expected to grow at a faster pace than other occupations, South Mississippi is embarking on a key project that should help ensure it can satisfy the growing need. The Mississippi Enterprise for Technology, a business incubator and tech transfer operation at NASA's Stennis Space Center, is conducting a project that will result in a "roadmap" of STEM employment in South Mississippi. (Post)

-- A retired Boeing 737 took center stage for a time early in the week when the 300-foot long fuselage was hauled from Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley to the Mobile Fire-Rescue Training Center. The fuselage will be used as a classroom for specialized training in aircraft rescue and fire fighting, medial and mass casualty situations. (Post)

EADS-NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $22.9 million modification to a contract to acquire four UH-72A Lakota helicopters with engine inlet barrier filters and ARC-231 radios. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss., Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity.

Port: The Port of Pensacola in Florida struck a deal with a company that promised 100 jobs. Offshore Inland will be leasing an empty warehouse and building on adjacent property to in order to manufacture flexible pipes. (Post)

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