Saturday, February 15, 2014

Week in review (2/9 to 2/15)

It was a pretty busy week for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor: Airbus started its search for hourly workers for the final assembly line in Mobile, Ala.; a new component repair facility was unveiled at Mobile Regional Airport; Airbus Group said it will provide its own financial services to customers and suppliers; Stennis Space Center released figures showing its global economic impact is up; a move to attract an ST Aerospace operation to Pensacola, Fla., inches forward; and the arrival of more F-22s at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., were among the stories of interest during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Airbus is hiring for the first wave of hourly manufacturing jobs at its A320 final assembly line being built at Alabama's Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. The open positions include aircraft structure/installation mechanics, installers for aircraft cabin furnishings and aircraft electricians.

Starting hourly pay rates range from $13 to $22 plus benefits based on skills, experience and education. All positions require a minimum of a high school diploma/GED and at least five years' experience in aircraft maintenance. The $600 million plant will come online in 2015 and eventually employ 1,000 workers. (Post)

Because that assembly line will be building A320s, anything about the popular line of aircraft is of interest to Mobile. During the week, Airbus finalized a deal with Vietnamese low-cost airline VietJetAir for a fleet of its single aisle A320 aircraft. It's a firm order for 63 aircraft and purchase rights for another 30. The airline will also lease eight more A320 family aircraft from third-party leasers. VietJetAir currently operates 11 leased A320s. (Post)

It's not just Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley where Airbus is active.

A new 7,500-square-foot component repair facility at Mobile Regional Airport was unveiled during the week by Airbus Group's North American military aircraft unit. It's in addition to the existing 30,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul delivery center. New services include hydraulic, avionics, composite and structural repairs, painting, component exchange and highly skilled engineering support. Airbus Group’s North American military aircraft unit was founded in Virginia in 1984, but relocated to Mobile in 2005. (Post)

With all the talk in this region about Airbus suppliers, this item should be of interest. Airbus Group plans to create an in-house bank by taking over Salzburg Muenchen Bank from the Raiffeisenverband Salzburg cooperative for an undisclosed sum. The deal still needs German regulatory approvals.

A banking license would give Airbus direct access to European Central Bank money supply. The new organization will be renamed Airbus Group Bank, and could provide Airbus flexibility to aid suppliers, some of whom have struggled to finance investments to keep pace as the planemaker increases output to record levels. (Post)

Speaking of suppliers, two years after beginning production, NORDAM has shipped the 70,000th cabin window assembly for the Airbus A320. NORDAM, of Tulsa, Okla., since 2012 has been the original equipment manufacturer of cabin window assemblies for the A320, including the A318, A319, A320 and A321, as well as the ACJ business jet. (Post)

Economic development
NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., had a global impact in 2013 of $940 million, up from the previous year's $882 million. It also had a direct impact of $619 million on the local economy in a 50-mile radius, down from the $682 million in 2012. SSC, best known for rocket engine testing, has 41 resident agencies and 5,000 total employees at its site near the Louisiana state line.  (Post)

-- The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition will more than double its downtown Pensacola, Fla., research space by adding a three-story, 30,000-square-foot addition and expanding and renovating the existing building. Construction for the $8 million project is expected to begin in April, with the building to open in 2015. (Post)

-- City of Pensacola and Escambia County have agreed on how to split the $8 million cost for bringing an ST Aerospace aircraft maintenance facility to Pensacola International Airport. The county would pay $4.8 million and would loan $3.2 million to the city. ST Aerospace also has a 1,500-employee operation in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Northrop Grumman and the Navy successfully flew the second MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for the first time this month. It happened at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif. The flight will allow the team to ramp up testing efforts to prepare the system for operations, including ship-based flights this summer.

The MQ-8C uses a Bell 407 and will eventually replace the much smaller MQ-8B, which uses a Schweizer (now Sikorsky) airframe. The MQ-8C is larger, has a longer range and payload capacity. Both Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- Air Force crews flew MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., using repurposed commercial satellites during missions in November and December. The big deal here is that the satellites were in an inclined orbit, which happens when it lacks the fuel to maintain a fixed geostationary orbit and drift into slightly wobbling orbits.

A team with the 53rd Test Management Group, which falls under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., successfully demonstrated using a wobbling satellite for MQ-1 and MQ-9 unmanned systems.

To use wobbling satellites, the dish must be able to move, unlike the fixed dish of satellite television providers. MQ-1 and MQ-9 programs have integrated the satellite tracking software and the 53rd Wing developed procedures for continuously updating the satellite tracking data needed.

Air Combat Command's latest lease for continental United States commercial SATCOM includes four inclined orbit SATCOM lines at about 50 percent savings over a typical lease. (Post)

The RS-25 engine, highly successful as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, is preparing for a new life with the Space Launch System. Testing at SSC will initially focus on a new Main Engine Controller (MEC) and the ability to accommodate the full range of propellant conditions in its new configuration with the SLS launch vehicle.. SSC engineers have been installing a 7,755-pound thrust frame adapter for the A-1 test stand in order to testing the RS-25s. The first engine on the stand will be 0525. The engine never flew in space, as it was one of two development engines used for component testing on Stand A-2 to support shuttle flights. The other was 0528. (Post)

-- A test article of the stage adapter that will connect the Orion spacecraft to a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket for Exploration Flight Test-1 aced structural loads testing last month in Huntsville, Ala. The adapter will be shipped in mid-March to ULA's facility in Decatur, Ala., where the Delta IV is being built. It will then travel by ship to Cape Canaveral, Fla., ahead of Orion's inaugural flight in September. (Post)

Air Force Reserve Command's 44th Fighter Group and Air Combat Command's 49th Fighter Wing, both from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., delivered five F-22 Raptors to Tyndall AFB during the week. The Raptors are now assigned to Tyndall to be operated by the integrated 301st Fighter Squadron and 95th FS. The 301st FS is a detachment of the 44th FG. The transfer of the jets is part of the 24 Raptors that are anticipated to be here by April and become combat ready in the summer. (Post)

-- Britain is expected to order 14 F-35 fighters in a $5 billion deal that may not be finalized until next month, sources told Reuters during the week. The deal includes fuel, hangars, training and operational support for the jets. Meanwhile, the United States had been expected to order 42 jets in fiscal 2015, up from 29 in fiscal 2014. But budget cuts will force the Pentagon to scale back, according to the sources. The expectation is that the fiscal 2015 budget request will call for three to six fewer F-35s than expected. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

Northrop Grumman appointed Thomas P. Mendez, Jr., vice president and controller of its Aerospace Systems sector. Mendez will be responsible for financial planning and analysis; financial reporting and accounting; budgets, rates and overhead management; government relations and compliance; resource management; and property administration for the sector. The Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center, Moss Point, Miss., is in the Aerospace Systems sector. (Post)

-- Rolls-Royce completed a long-term agreement with Lockheed Martin worth up to $1 billion to deliver about 600 engines to power future C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. The agreement secures the Rolls-Royce AE 2100 as the engine for all variants of the C-130J to 2025. (Post)

-- Camber Corp., Huntsville, Ala., has been awarded a $22.2 million 15-month contract by Battelle to provide program management and systems engineering and technical assistance to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering Research Development Center –Topographic Engineering Center will benefit from the work. Most of the work will be done in Colorado Springs, Colo., Fort Belvoir, Va., and Edgewood, Md., but one of the other work locations is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

The 96th Operations Group at Eglin Air Force Base conducted boat operations in Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico during the week, and will do so again this coming week. The operations are part of the 53rd Wing's Weapon System Evaluation Program, and involves fighter aircraft using the boats as targets. (Post)

Meanwhile, Duke Field, Fla., and several roads were scheduled to be closed first on Friday, then on Saturday due to Eglin's test mission. But all of that was canceled when the plane that was participating in the mission had mechanical problems. (Post)

-- Improvements are coming to Mobile Regional Airport in the coming months. The most immediate changes will be upgraded signage in the rental car lot, but the big shift begins in mid-April when all of the airport’s rental car and airline ticket counters will be remodeled. (Post)

Oasis Systems LLC, Lexington, Mass., and COLSA Corp., Huntsville, Ala., each was awarded a $55.7 million modification for an existing contract for technical and acquisition management support services. Work in both cases will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2015. Air Force Test Center/PZZ, Eglin AFB, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $16.8 million bilateral modification for an existing contract for engineering change proposal, follow-on agile sustainment for the F-22 Raptor, Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program Project AF100 Acceleration Plan. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is home of F-22 training and an operational F-22 squadron. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $6.5 million contract for maintenance and logistics services in support of the KC-130J aircraft for the government of Kuwait under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

HII: Bath Iron Works, Maine, Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., and Eastern Shipbuilding, Panama City, Fla., were awarded first phase contracts in a $12 billion Coast Guard ship program. Huntington Ingalls Industries, with shipyards in Newport News, Va., and Pascagoula, Miss., was shut out. (Post)
VT Halter: VT Halter Marine in Escatawpa, Miss., launched the ocean-going articulated tug barge Denise A. Bouchard during the week. (Post)

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