Stories about the F-35 were all over the Gulf Coast aerospace news feed during the week. It started when an F-35A, the Air Force variant of the plane, had a fire at the rear of the plane as it was getting ready for take-off.
Flights of the Air Force's conventional takeoff and landing variants have been suspended pending outcome of an investigation. But te Marines resumed flying the F35B variant Friday, and still plan to fly several of the jets to the U.K. next month for the Royal International Air Tatoo and Farnborough International Air Show. Four of the Marine jets, which can take off and land vertically, arrived in southern Maryland Friday to be prepared for their trans-Atlantic flights.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, sources said engine pieces and fragments were found on the runway at Eglin after the fire, the first confirmation that the fire involved the plane's Pratt and Whitney-built engine.
-- In an unrelated F-35 item, the Air Force said it will continue to limit F-35 flights over Valparaiso to minimize the impact of jet noise. The decision overruled a previous recommendation to lift restrictions.
Takeoffs and landings on a runway that sends traffic over Valparaiso will only be allowed in emergencies, unplanned contingencies and when forced by weather. Lifting restrictions would have allowed up to an average of 33 operations over Valparaiso per day, but Friday's decision limits operations to an average of one per day.
In practice, it means many days with no operations at all and other days with more than one, said Kathleen Ferguson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics. (Post)
-- There was some positive news for the F-35 during the week. The projected cost to upgrade F-35s declined by about $920 million, or 36 percent, in less than two years. That's according to the Pentagon’s latest analysis.
The estimate for improvements and corrections for Lockheed Martin aircraft already built or planned in contracts to be awarded through 2016 has dropped to about $1.65 billion from a $2.57 billion estimate in September 2012. The need to retrofit the planes stems from the Defense Department's decision to produce the F-35 even as it’s still being developed, called concurrency. (Post)
-- Lockheed Martin won two contracts during the week related to the F-35. In one, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $76 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of 252 helmet mounted display systems in support of the F-35 aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, and the governments of Japan and Israel. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in July 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
In another award, Lockheed won an $8.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to the previously awarded advance acquisition contract for the procurement of 14 repeatable release holdback bars and common sustainment support of the F-35 Low Rate Initial Production 6 aircraft. Work is expected to be completed in March 2017. This modification combines purchases for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and the international partners. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Airbus awarded two key contracts during the week.
The company awarding a contract to Terex Material Handling to supply Demag crane installations for its new assembly facility in Mobile, Ala. Ten process cranes will be employed for the final assembly of A320 family aircraft in three production hangars.
The process cranes, measuring up to 218 feet in length, feature up to four suspensions for handling of sensitive aircraft components. Demag Cranes is a German heavy equipment manufacturer, a part of U.S.-based Terex. The A320 final assembly line is being built at Mobile Aeroplex and will open in 2015. It will produce its first A320 in 2016. (Post)
Airbus also has a contract with DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight specialist within Deutsche Post DHL, which will provide transportation of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft components and general cargo from Hamburg, Germany, to Mobile.
DHL will provide air, ocean and road freight services beginning in 2015. The agreement comprises general cargo, which will be shipped via air and ocean, and major aircraft components including rear fuselage, forward fuselage, wings, and the vertical as well as horizontal tail plane.
The major components will be shipped via coaster from amburg to Bremerhaven, Germany, where they will be loaded onto container liner shipping service. After their arrival in Mobile, trucks will take care of delivery to the final assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex. (Post)
-- The Alabama Industrial Development Training program's $7 million Alabama Aviation Training Center, already opened for a month, had a grand opening Tuesday in Mobile. The facility not far from the $600 million Airbus final assembly line site, has six classrooms, five labs, general office space, a conference room, break room and a shop floor where the majority of the training will take place. (Post)
There were two recent acquisitions involving Gulf Coast operations.
In one, Continental Motors Group's MRO subsidiary, Mattituck Services Inc., will purchase Southern Avionics and Communications Inc., of Mobile, Ala. Southern Avionics has been involved in avionics sales, installation and services since 1981 and has 14 employees at the Mobile Aeroplex.
The purchase adds avionics and aircraft interior maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities to Mattituck Services, located in Fairhope, Ala. Mattituck has been involved in general aviation service since 1996 and has 20 full-time workers. It offers overhaul/repair for Continental and Lycoming engines and major aircraft repairs. Southern Avionics has serviced aircraft ranging from small personal aircraft to large corporate jets. (Post)
In the other, Air Methods Corp. of Colorado, an air medical transportation firm, said it has acquired Baptist Health Care Pensacola’s four bases of operations for its aeromedical LifeFlight ambulance service. The change is effective immediately.
The four operating bases are in Pensacola; Semmes, Ala.; Greenville, Ala.; and Hattiesburg, Miss. Each has an EC-130 helicopter owned by AMC. As part of the acquisition, 43 clinical Baptist employees will join the Air Methods team. (Post)
NASA completed the most complex and flight-like test of the parachute system for the
agency's Orion spacecraft during the week. A test version of Orion touched down safely in
the Arizona desert after being pulled out of a C-17 aircraft, 35,000 feet above the Army's Yuma Proving Ground.
The test also marked the last time the entire parachute sequence will be tested before Orion launches into space in December on its first space flight test, EFT-1. During the flight, an uncrewed Orion launched by an Atlas V will travel 3,600 miles into space, farther than any spacecraft built to carry humans has been in more than 40 years.
The Orion for EFT-1 was built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. Stennis Space Center, Miss., is testing the engines that will be used in NASA's Space Launch System that will be used for future Orion launches. (Post)
-- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $1.9 billion modification to a previously awarded contract for Space-Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) 5 and 6 satellites.
This contract modification will complete the production of the SBIRS GEO 5/6 satellites, which was started with the procurement of long lead parts, and also complete the associated ground operations and processing updates. The contract modification also includes adding options for acoustic testing, launch vehicle integration, launch and early on-orbit testing, and contractor operations support.
Work will be done in Sunnyvale and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2022. Space and Missile System Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base/El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity. Work on the SBIRS core propulsion system is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
Gulf Power has launched an interactive website to market industrial sites and attract businesses to Northwest Florida. FloridaFirstSites.com highlights 13 sites in that are going through the company’s site certification program. The program is designed to create an inventory of shovel-ready parcels of land that a business prospect can occupy quickly. It is similar to programs in nearby Alabama and Mississippi. (Post)
-- Enterprise City Schools are asking for help from the city council to fund a $16.5 million improvement plan designed in part to bolster the community’s support of nearby Fort Rucker. At a recent joint work session of the school board and city council, Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell applauded the school superintendent for helping the city prepare for an impending BRAC round. (Post)
Contract - Unmanned
Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded two contracts related to unmanned systems during the week. In one, it was awarded a $63 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the Phase II continuation of post-demonstration activities in support of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program.
Activities include continued X-47B aircraft systems, test bed and flight test support at both shore-based locations and associated carrier detachments, continued development of Fleet Concepts of Operations, X-47B maintenance support, lab and test bed operational support and continued flight test opportunities.
While the X-47B program doesn’t involve the Gulf Coast, it’s of high interest because this is where future naval aviators are trained, and this is also where work is done on two other Northrop Grumman UAVs, Fire Scout and Global Hawk. (Post)
In the other award, Northrop Grumman was awarded an $8.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the extension of engineering and software sustainment services in support of the Fire Scout MQ-8B unmanned helicopter. Work will be performed in San Diego and is expected to be completed in November 2014. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Moss Point, Miss., is the final assembly line for the MQ-8B as well as the larger MQ-8C (Post)
Contract - Others
EADS-NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $14.4 million modification to a contract to exercise options for contractor logistics support for the Utility Helicopter 72A Lakota, which is built in Columbus, Miss. Estimated completion date is May 15, 2015. EADS-NA now goes by the name the Airbus Group. … Raytheon Co. Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $80.8 million contract for the Lot 7 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J) missile (200 each) to include: data, mission planning, process verification program, and operational flight software. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJM, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.
Foundry: Rolls-Royce North America is closing the foundry at its Pascagoula, Miss., plant and expects to lose 24 of the 47 employees. The plant's machining operation will continue. (Post)
Accident: Five people were injured, one seriously, after the collapse of two cranes moving part of a ship under construction at VT Halter Marine. (Post)