Saturday, June 14, 2014

Week in review (6/8 to 6/14)

Late next month the Gulf Coast region will be saying goodbye to an energetic visionary who clearly understands the important economic development role of airports. But he's going to a place that is right at the forefront of Florida's aerospace activities.

I'm talking about Greg Donovan, director of the city-owned Pensacola International Airport. He's leaving at the end of next month to become executive director of the Melbourne Airport Authority/Melbourne International Airport.

Donovan has lead Pensacola's airport since early 2013. During his tenure, the airport added new service from Southwest Airlines and Silver Airways, increased seating capacity by 13 percent and the 127-room Hyatt Place hotel at the airport campus was completed. More than $21 million in federal and state aviation grants also were secured during his tenure.

Donovan has been instrumental in elevating the profile of the airport as an economic development engine. The 350 acres of airport land being made available to aviation companies under Donovan’s tenure was the subject of a story in the first issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League aerospace newsletter. One of the companies interested in setting up shop at the airport is ST Aerospace, a maintenance, repair and overhaul company based in Singapore that already has a large operation in Mobile. (Post)

I met Donovan a few years ago when he was head of the airports in Okaloosa County. In that position he oversaw the operations at Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Valparaiso, Destin Airport and Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, which is heavily used by the region's military aviation bases. It's also home to several big aerospace companies, including BAE Systems and L-3.

But the move is understandable. Donovan is going to a region that's a major aerospace and defense hotspot with a worldwide reputation. Melbourne is part of Florida's Space Coast, and the city of Melbourne itself is home to Northrop Grumman, Embraer, Rockwell Collins, DRS Technologies and more.

Donovan, a graduate of the Melbourne-based Florida Institute of Technology, will be a great fit in the Space Coast region. According to a Gannett news service story, Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan said one detail that stuck out with Donovan was that he was still promoting the Pensacola airport during his tour of the Melbourne facility. She said he handed her a promotional brochure of that airport after their one-on-one interview.

The big news for Airbus during the week was the United Arab Emirates decision to cancel its order for 70 Airbus A350 commercial jetliners. The deal was worth an estimated $16 billion. The other big company that took a hit from the decision was Rolls-Royce, which supplies the XWB engine for the A350.

Airbus says it's already received calls from other airlines interested in the slots, and Rolls-Royce said it was confident the delivery slots that start towards the end of the decade will be taken up by other airlines.

More than 700 A350s have been sold along with 1,400 of the Trent XWB engines. Rolls-Royce tests its Trent line of engines, including the XWB, at its outdoor test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. An A350 recently was tested for extreme weather conditions at Eglin Air Force Base's McKinley Climatic Lab.

-- Another Airbus plane with a direct link to this region is, of course, the A320. The highly popular plane will be assembled in Mobile, Ala., at its $600 million plant at the Mobile Aeroplex. So anything about sales of A320s is of interest to this region.

That said, Allegiant Air of Las Vegas will acquire 14 Airbus A320 family jetliners and will buy two additional A319s it currently leases. It will also buy six A319s when they are delivered in late 2014 through 2015 from lessor GECAS, which agreed to lease the aircraft to Allegiant in 2012. The 14 A320 family aircraft that Allegiant will acquire includes 12 A319s now leased to an European airline until 2018. (Post)

-- Airbus will provide A320 family flight simulator training and courses to Mexican airline Volaris in Miami and Mexico as part of an agreement that includes more than 25,000 flight training hours for 500 pilots. The all-Airbus operator has ordered a total of 74 aircraft to date and operates 47 A320 family aircraft. Training of Volaris pilots has already begun at the Airbus Training Center in Miami, and in 2015 Airbus will provide the airline with flight training in Mexico City, where the airline is based. It will be Airbus’ first flight training center in Latin America. (Post)

Lockheed Martin expects to sign a contract with the Defense Department this summer for an eighth batch of 43 F-35 fighters. The deal is unlikely to match price reductions seen in the last several pacts, according to CFO Bruce Tanner. Although DOD’s F-35 program chief hoped to sign a new deal by the end of May, Tanner says it's still possible by the end of June. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home to F-35 training center. (Post)

The U.S. Air Force awarded the Dr. James G. Roche Sustainment Excellence Award for superior performance in aircraft maintenance and logistics readiness to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft program. It's the second year in a row that the company won the award.

Global Hawk has flown 100,500 total flight hours supporting diverse global missions. Carrying a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor payloads, Global Hawk supports
antiterrorism, antipiracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, airborne communications and information-sharing missions. Central fuselage work on the Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

-- Northrop Grumman System Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $61.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for operations and maintenance services in support of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D) Unmanned Aircraft System. This effort will provide logistics support; organization, intermediate, and depot (D) -level maintenance; and field service representatives, to ensure that the BAMS-D aircraft are mission-capable for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. The operational version of the demonstrator project is called "Triton," and uses a Global Hawk airframe. Central fuselage work on Global Hawks is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

LCS: USS Coronado (LCS 4), the second Mobile, Ala.-built Independence class Littoral Combat Ship, completed it final contract trials June 6 off the coast of San Diego. (Post)

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