Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week in review (3/9 to 3/15)

Australia plans to buy Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance system to help patrol the vast ocean regions surrounding that country. It's the first foreign customer for the maritime variant of the Global Hawk.

How many of the aircraft will be purchased was not disclosed, though it’s believed six to eight will be required, according to Flightglobal. It's also unclear when this will occur. Tritons are made in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

The Triton is the Navy's version RQ-4 Global Hawk. It's powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine, the same engine used in the Cessna Citation X and Embraer ERJ 145. Triton has a wingspan of 130.9 feet and is 47.6 feet long.

Triton has a reinforced aluminum airframe and composite wings, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These capabilities allow Triton, which can fly at nearly 60,000 feet, to descend through clouds to get a closer view of ships and other targets at sea. The current sensor suite allows ships to be tracked over time by gathering information on their speed, location and classification.

The Navy's program of record calls for 68 Tritons.

Moss Point is fortunate to have gained a foothold in an industry firmly entrenched in the future. Unmanned aerial systems are on track to grow dramatically, and Northrop Grumman is at the front of the high-tech pack. (Post)

You might think landing an Airbus jetliner plant like Mobile, Ala., did would be enough to satisfy any economic development appetite. But you would be wrong. The folks who run the nearly 1,700-acre Mobile Aeroplex, site of the future A320 final assembly line, are quick to point out there are still 200 acres and 850,000 square feet of building space available. And there’s also space at Mobile Regional Airport. (Post)

The Airbus final assembly line being built at Mobile Aeroplex celebrated with a topping out ceremony for the main hangar during the week. A 21-foot steel tree built by Dothan's Covenant Steel was ceremoniously installed as the highest structural element of the A320 final assembly line. The final assembly line, which will employ 1,000 workers, is scheduled to open in 2015 and the first A320 will roll out in 2016. (Post)

Airbus posted two new positions for the final assembly line. One posting is for a ground test inspector, which will pay between $18 and $30 per hour based on skills, experience and education. The second posting is for a manufacturing engineer paint coordinator. That position requires a professional degree in aerospace, industrial, mechanical or chemical engineering, preferably in the aviation field. (Post)

-- Airbus and Boeing have revised their 20-year market outlook for India, stating that the country will see more aircraft sales until 2032 than what they had estimated in 2012. Airbus says that between 2012 and 2032 India would need 1,290 aircraft valued at $190 billion. In 2012, its prediction for 2012-2032 was for 1,045 planes at $145 billion.

Boeing's outlook says that between 2013 and 2032 Indian airlines will buy 1,600 aircraft valued $205 billion. Last year, Boeing had predicted that in the same period India would need 1,450 planes valued at $175 billion. (Post)

ST Aerospace
In Florida, the Escambia County Commission during the week pledged $8 million in local option sales tax revenue to bring an aircraft maintenance and repair facility to Pensacola International Airport. Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the allocation, formalized by an interlocal agreement with the city of Pensacola. The agreement was ratified last month by the Pensacola City Council. The county will loan the city $3.2 million, to be repaid by 2020, and provide a further $4.8 million in direct contributions to get ST Aerospace and 300 jobs. (Post)

Meanwhile, in an effort to recruit and train prospective aerospace workers, CareerSource Escarosa is hosting a free information and recruitment session March 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for individuals looking to learn more about career opportunities with ST Aerospace Mobile. The event is at Pensacola State College.

Those with minimum-skill qualifications will have access to ST Aerospace's human resources staff, who will be on site to answer questions regarding current employment opportunities at their facility in Mobile, Ala. Representatives from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, George Stone Technical Center and Pensacola State College will also be on site to provide information on available aeronautical programs. (Post)

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition does a lot of neat stuff, and it's probably best known for the robot Atlas, which is making a great showing at international competition. But researchers there are also involved in aerospace activities, like creating a new type of aircraft display that simplifies all the dials dials, gauges, buttons and other confusing array of controls.

David Still, an IHMC researcher who earned a pilot's license, figured there had to be a better way. So he came up with OZ, and pilots that have used it fly better, one study showed. He's now building a kit airplane that will use the new display. (Post)

Economic development
It's been described as a place where airplanes go to die. True, but most of the aircraft that come to Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Fla., get refurbished or modified with the latest military gear and leave more capable than when they arrived. The airport is close to four military bases and has managed to carve a niche for itself. (Post)

NASA has selected 108 research and technology proposals from U.S. small businesses that will enable NASA's future missions. The selected proposals now will enter into negotiations for contract awards as part of Phase II of the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The selected aerospace technology and innovation projects have a total value of some $87 million, supporting 99 U.S. firms in 26 states. Two selected proposals involve technology being administered by the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Textron Inc. has closed on its purchase of Beech Holdings LLC, parent of Beechcraft Corp. It brings together its Textron’s Cessna business and Beechcraft to form a new segment called Textron Aviation, which together produced about $4.6 billion in revenues during 2013. Textron owns Texas-based Bell Helicopter, which said late last year that it will build a new line of helicopters in Lafayette, La. Textron Marine and Land Systems has a plant in New Orleans. (Post)

HII: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., is being provided $602 million under a previously awarded contract to fund construction and exercised options for one DDG 51 class ship in fiscal 2014. Most of the work will be done in Pascagoula. (Post)
NGI: The Northern Gulf Institute, headquartered at Stennis Space Center, Miss., has partnered with a group of institutions in Mexico to advance the study of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem. (Post)
Appointment: Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., has announced that Mike Lipski will be the company's vice president of business development, effective April 1. (Post)
Keel laying: Austal USA of Mobile, Ala., held a keel laying ceremony for the future USNS Trenton early in the week. (Post)
Austal: Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., is being provided funding in the amount of $683.7 million under a previously awarded contract for construction of two fiscal 2014 littoral combat ships. (Post)

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