Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week in review (2/2 to 2/8)

Before we get to the week in review, permit me a sidebar. As I've mentioned before, we're slowly adding associated news digests from other aerospace regions in the Southeast to our lineup.

The newest one covers Northeast Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, then up the coast of Georgia to South Carolina. That region made sense, in part because Embraer, Gulfstream and Boeing all have operations there.

If you're interested in seeing each of the aerospace news feeds, go to Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor; Huntsville Region Aerospace and Defense; Central Mississippi/Golden Triangle; and Northeast Florida Aerospace and Defense. All the feeds are or will be available at Gulf Coast Aerospace

Now for the week in review:

Economic development
Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency, is talking to Pensacola officials about establishing an operation at the now-vacant nine-acre downtown Technology Park. Space Florida and the park's owner, the Pensacola Industrial Development Corp., have a memorandum of understanding.

Plans are for a multi-tenant building for tenants that would require some 65,000 to 75,000 square feet of space. No names have been divulged, but the proposed anchor tenant would be a leading aerospace company from the region. Other tenants would be academic and economic development service providers. (Post)

The significance of Space Florida's involvement is hard to overstate. The agency is a key player in bringing additional aerospace activities to Florida. It's been involved in the reuse of a NASA facility at Kennedy Space Center, spending up to $4 million to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at KSC for a new tenant. The tenant hasn't been identified, but the thinking is will be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. (2013 Post)

Space Florida was also involved in efforts to land one of the six FAA drone test site locations (2012 Post), and before that was instrumental in getting Boeing to consolidate its CST-100 Commercial Crew program office and manufacturing operations to KSC. Boeing is using Orbiter Processing Facility 3. (2011 Post)

What's particularly significant here is not only getting Space Florida involved in a project in Northwest Florida, but having that happen in a city that is seeing a renaissance of its downtown. The park is located just south of where Interstate 110 feeds into downtown. The site is also just two blocks from the internationally known Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and its scientists and technicians.

An Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engine tested at NASA's E-1 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss., last month is undergoing post-test inspections and flight prep activities. When that work is done, it will be shipped to NASA's Wallops Fight Test Center in Virginia for integration with Orbital Sciences' Antares medium-class space launch vehicle.

"Each test of an AJ26 engine is exciting and affirming because it is in direct support of NASA's commercial space flight efforts, as well as a continuation of a very successful Stennis partnership with Orbital and Aerojet Rocketdyne," said Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech. NASA has tested AJ-26 engines at SSC since November 2010. (Post)

In another item out of Stennis Space Center, the NASA center presented its highest honor for quality and performance, the Contractor Excellence Award, to A2Research and Jacobs Technology for outstanding contributions to the missions of the center. A2Research, which has managed a laboratory services contract at SSC since 2010, received the small business award. Jacobs, which has performed the Facility Operating Services Contract at SSC since 2007, received the large business award. The awards were established in 2008. (Post)

Airbus has posted three new job positions for its A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. It’s looking for a supply chain surveillance coordinator, an information technology manager and multiple IT specialists to form the team establishing and supporting the computer systems and networks for the assembly line. The plant is currently being built at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, and aircraft production is expected to begin in 2015. The FAL will eventually have 1,000 workers. (Post)

Military aircraft
The Navy version of the F-35 has passed the first round of tests of its tailhook, the part of the plane that makes traditional carrier arrested landings possible. CF-3, the first F-35C to be fitted with the redesigned Arresting Hook System, had 36 successful arrested landing tests on land. For the next few months it will undergo field-based ship suitability tests. Carrier flight trials will be in October aboard the USS Nimitz. Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 training center; naval aviators begin their training at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, in Milton, Fla. (Post)

Another new warplane, the newly minted AC-130J Ghostrider, took to the skies for the first time as a gunship Jan. 31 over Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. More than a year earlier, the Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130J arrived to begin the modification.

The end result became a C-130 model with the flying proficiencies of the MC-130J and the combat capabilities of an AC-130. Converting a mobility aircraft into a strike aircraft meant adding the Precision Strike Package, which includes dual electro-optical infrared sensors, a 30-mm cannon, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, all-weather synthetic aperture radar and GBU-39 small diameter bomb capabilities.

The sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets at any time, even in adverse weather. A total of 32 MC-130J aircraft will be modified for AFSOC as part of a $2.4 billion AC-130J program. (Post)

Meanwhile, another military aircraft didn't have it so good. A QF-4 drone crashed on White Sands National Monument at the end of the week while on a routine training mission. The cause of the crash, four to five miles west of Runway 22, is unknown.

The monument west of Alamogordo was closed in advance of the test mission and will remain closed until further notice. The drone was assigned to Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a tenant unit at Holloman assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The 82nd ATRS is part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, which falls under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is home to both QF-4s and QF-16s. (Post)

In Florida, Pensacola International Airport is getting $14 million in funding from the state to support efforts to establish an ST Aerospace facility at the airport. Gov. Rick Scott made the announcement Tuesday night. His 2014-2015 budget includes $325 million for aviation improvements, including the one in Pensacola. ST Aerospace, a maintenance, repair and overhaul provider, already has a large operation in Mobile, Ala. The operation in Pensacola is expected to provide 300 jobs. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport reported its first gain in passenger traffic in more than a year at a board meeting last week. Passenger traffic increased 2.74 percent over the previous year, the first traffic gain observed since August 2012. Airport Director Parker McClellan said the passenger gain as the beginning of a leveling out process for the airport, due to a significant reduction in flights that took about 400 seats out of the market in the fall of 2012. The airport is in West Bay, northwest of Panama City, Fla.. (Post)

-- Plans for a proposed general aviation airport in Louisiana’s Livingston Parish are progressing with state and federal authorities signing off on the project and parish officials moving toward site selection. A 2011 study suggested the airport would require at least 200 acres, but said 500 acres would be ideal. The proposed airfield would include a single runway of 5,000 feet to 5,400 feet and would accommodate small, private planes and corporate jets but not large jets. Livingston Parish is east of Baton Rouge. (Post)

On Feb. 14, Duke Field, Fla., and several roads will be closed due to Eglin Air Force Base's test mission. The base will be closed and personnel will be evacuated prior to 8:30 a.m. on the day of the test. The base and highways 85 and 285 and surrounding roadways to include range roads will be closed from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The 7th Special Forces Group facilities will remain open. (Post)

-- The 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., sent more than 200 Airmen, 14 F-22 Raptors and the 325th Training Support Squadron sent 25 Airmen and seven T-38 Talons to Savannah, Ga., Feb. 1. The 43rd FS will train at the Georgia Combat Readiness Training Center in a large-scale aerial scenario against multiple aircraft. "The main goal is to accomplish as much student pilot training as we can," said Maj. John Hensz, 43rd FS assistant director of operations. Team Tyndall will work with F-15 Eagles from Jacksonville Air National Guard, F-16 Falcons from D.C. ANG, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. and Vermont ANG. (Post)

-- Marine Corps Reserve Brig. Gen. William T. Collins was nominated for appointment to the rank of major general. Collins is currently serving as commanding general, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, New Orleans. In addition, Marine Corps Reserve Brig. Gen. James S. Hartsell was nominated for appointment to the rank of major general. Hartsell is currently serving as commanding general, 4th Marine Division, New Orleans. (Post)

International Shipholding: Marine services provider International Shipholding is leaving Mobile, Ala., and returning to New Orleans, the city it left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, by the end of 2015. (Post)
Land buy: Ingalls Shipbuilding bought the 12.26-acre former 84 Lumber property in Moss Point, Miss., that will be used to store material in close proximity to the shipyard. (Post)
LHA 6: The amphibious assault ship America, LHA 6, returned to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., after successful acceptance sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. (Post)
Avondale: The USS Somerset, expected to be the last Navy ship built at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Avondale shipyard, left early last week headed to Philadelphia for a March 1 commissioning. (Post)
Forrestal: The former carrier USS Forrestal, which was once homeported in Pensacola, Fla., to serve as a training carrier, left Philadelphia and is being towed to a Texas scrapyard. (Post)

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