Saturday, July 26, 2014

Week in review (7/20 to 7/26)

One of the reasons we provide news and information on aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast I-10 region is because aviation is an important part of the region’s economy, and we want to make sure folks know about it.

One group we hope to reach: students. We feel that if they know the opportunities provided by this industry in the Gulf Coast region, they may be more inclined to pursue a career in the field. Whether they're interested in space, robotics, unmanned systems, weapons development or any other aviation field, we have a lot of opportunities here. Some of the work requires advanced degrees, some vocational training.

So I want to give a special thank you to two folks in Pensacola who have for the past two years purchased printed editions of our Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor annual to donate to teachers and students in the region. Last year Quint and Rishy Studer bought books for Okaloosa County, and this year they got them for Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.

The team behind the books, the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, provides the books at cost and doesn't make a dime off book sales, thanks to the underwriters who support the research that goes into the publication. We had 14 underwriters this year, and if you want to see who they are, click this link.

OK, now for your aerospace week in review:

Most of the Marines who have been stationed at the F-35 training center at Eglin have moved to South Carolina, part of the relocation of VMFAT-501 from Eglin to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Fifteen of the 33rd Fighter Wing's 49 F-35s belong to the Marines. Those aircraft will stay at Eglin for about a year while the Marines work to get the proper infrastructure in place at Beaufort. (Post)

-- A ceremony was held during the week in Fort Worth, Texas, marking the official roll out of the first two F-35 aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Lockheed Maratin F-35 will the Australian aerospace industry with up to $6 billion in expected manufacturing orders over the life of the program. AU-1 and AU-2 will undergo checks before being transported to the flight line for ground and flight tests. They'll be delivered to the RAAF later this year and will be based at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where they'll be used for Australian and partner country pilot training. (Post)

Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated its Joint Air-to-Ground Missile dual-mode guidance section during a second internally funded flight test at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Eglin in Northwest Florida is one of the nation's key weapons development facilities. During the test, the rail-mounted JAGM flew 6.2 kilometers and initially acquired the target using its precision strike, semi-active laser. The dual-mode guidance section then engaged its millimeter wave radar, and the moving target was destroyed. (Post)

With Mobile, Ala., getting an A320 final assembly line, there's a lot of interest in this region in Airbus suppliers. So with that in mind, we told you during the week that Switzerland-based FACC AG and Airbus signed a contract for an additional work package for the A320 aircraft family.

The contract includes the production, as a second source, of Sharklet wing tip devices for the A320. FACC also recently won an Airbus contract for the redesign and manufacture of overhead stowage bins, ceiling panels and cove light panels as well as for the manufacture of the aft belly fairings for the A320 family.

FACC will produce the components in Ort im Innkreis, Austria. (Post)

Hey, FACC. Wouldn't you love to set up shop in the Gulf Coast region? We don't have mountains, but we've got beaches.

-- The Hong Kong unit of China's Shenzhen-listed Bohai Leasing signed a deal worth about $7.76 billion to buy 70 A320neo aircraft from Airbus Group. Subsidiary Hong Kong Aviation Capital signed the agreement on July 17 and it was approved by a special meeting of its board of directors on the following day. This month, BOC Aviation, the aircraft leasing arm of the Bank of China, ordered 43 planes from Airbus, including 36 A320ceo and seven A320neo models. (Post)

-- This is another Airbus item, but it's mostly about engines. Hawaiian Airlines picked six Airbus A330-800neo aircraft powered by the newly-launched Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine. The Trent engine family has accumulated more than 75 million flight hours over the last 19 years. Trent engines are tested at the Rolls-Royce outdoor test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

In New Orleans, the 170-foot Vertical Assembly Center (VAC) is near completion and will soon be ready to build the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System. VAC is the world's largest spacecraft welding tool, part of a family of tools at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility designed to build the core stage.

The core stage will store  cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the Space Launch System's RS-25 engines, which will be tested at nearby Stennis Space Center, Miss. The core stage, comprised of the forward skirt, the liquid oxygen tank, the intertank, the liquid hydrogen tank and the engine section, recently passed its critical design review. (Post)

B3H Corp., Shalimar, Fla., was awarded a $7 million contract modification for English language instructors and an English language training program using Defense Language Institute English Language Center courseware, methodology and processes. … Lakeview Center Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $10.3 million contract modification for dining facility/cook support. Work location will be determined with each order.

LCS: USS Coronado, built in Mobile, Ala., will get a chance at an historic moment in September when it fires the first-ever surface-to-surface Norwegian missile from a Littoral Combat Ship in tests off southern California. (Post)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Week in review (7/13 to 7/19)

While much of the aerospace industry was looking at the Farnborough air show and a lot of copy was devoted to whether the F-35 fighter would or would not show up, I was intrigued by a GE Aviation announcement.

The company said it would install a high-volume, additive manufacturing facility at its plant in Auburn, Ala. That plant opened last year to produce machined parts for jet engines, and the new $50 million 3D printing initiative will produce fuel nozzles for jet engines. GE will partner with Auburn University and others on workforce, research and technology requirements for the project. (Post)

The Auburn plant is a good distance from the Interstate 10 corridor, to the east of Montgomery. But GE Aviation is becoming a big player in this region. It also has an engine parts plant near Hattiesburg and Batesville, Miss., both making making composite parts for jetliner engines. In Batesville GE Aviation is working with Mississippi State University, and in Hattiesburg - it's actually the town of Ellisville - GE Aviation is teamed up with the University of Southern Mississippi.

This cutting edge work so close to the I-10 region is significant. Composites are important to the aerospace industry, and so is 3D printing. And when you consider what's going on in the I-10 region it's pretty significant. Propulsion system work has been important to this region for years. It dates back to the 60s when NASA began testing rocket engines at Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center.

In more recent years propulsion systems for jetliners has been added to the mix. We now have Rolls-Royce testing its Trent engines at Stennis Space Center. And historically this region has been involved in maintaining aircraft engines.

Fortunately, educators in this region have taken note and are working on addressing the need in this particular aerospace field.

So what other things happened at Farnborough? Well for one thing, an expected highlight of the show, the international appearance of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, did not happen.

As you are well aware, the appearance of four F-35s was called into question after an F-35 caught fire at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the entire fleet of 100 planes was grounded. It was determined that the June 23 fire was caused by a blade rubbing against a cowl - an isolated incident.

The Pentagon lifted the flying ban, but kept in place some restrictions. It wasn't long after grounding was lifted that the Pentagon nixed any F-35 transAtlantic flights to Farnborough. The Pentagon's most expensive weapons program will rely heavily on foreign sales, and Farnborough was seen as an opportunity to strut its stuff. (Post)

Some other highlights of the show:

-- Airbus beat Boeing in aircraft orders. Airbus, which is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., said its orders and commitments at Farnborough for 496 aircraft were valued at $75 billion. Boeing secured business worth $40.2 billion for 201 airplanes. (Post)

-- The day before the show started the Aerospace Alliance, a group that promotes Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi aerospace activities, hosted a river cruise for 500 invited guests. The delegation from the greater Mobile, Ala., later hosted the Mobile Bay Aerospace Reception for about 200 people. (Post)

-- Florida opened two pavilions at the air show, and according to Enterprise Florida, the state had the largest representation of any state at the show. Gray Swoope, Florida Secretary of Commerce and Enterprise Florida president and CEO, said this is the first year the state has had two pavilions. (Post) Enterprise Florida was also given an award at Farnborough in recognition for 20 years of service to small businesses through international trade and development support. (Post)

Here are a few Airbus-related highlights from the week:

-- Air Mauritius placed an order for six long range A350 XWB jetliners. That includes four A350-900 planes that would be bought from Airbus and two leased from AerCap. The planes are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines that are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- In Mobile, Ala., Airbus is looking to fill five corrosion protector positions at its A320 final assembly line being built at the Mobile Aeroplex. A minimum of six months training abroad is required. (Post)

-- UTC Aerospace Systems has been chosen by Airbus to supply new wheels and carbon
brakes for A320neo family aircraft through its plant in Troy, Ohio. The equipment is scheduled to enter into service in 2015 on the current A320 family of aircraft. UTC Aerospace has a center in Foley, Ala. (Post)

-- Airbus Defense and Space's U.S. military aircraft unit late last month held its first operators conference in Mobile. About thirty representatives from business and government owners of C212 aircraft fleets from five countries attended. Airbus opened a 30,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul center at Mobile Regional Airport in 2009. (Post)

-- Rolls-Royce announced that Airbus picked the new Trent 7000 as the exclusive engine for the Airbus A330neo. Rolls-Royce tests Trent engines at its outdoor facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- American Airlines selected CFM International’s LEAP-1A engine to power its new fleet of 100 Airbus A320neo family aircraft. CFM International is a joint venture of General Electric and Safran. GE Aviation has a jetliner engine parts plant near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala.; Safran has an engineering center in Mobile. (Post)

-- Alcoa announced a $1.1 billion deal to supply jet engine parts to Pratt and Whitney, including the world's first lightweight aluminum alloy fan blade. Alcoa developed the forging for the new aluminum fan blade for Pratt and Whitney’s PurePower engines using an advanced aluminum alloy and a proprietary manufacturing process. The PurePower engine is an option on the A320neo. (Post)

In a key milestone in NASA's Space Launch System program, an RS-25 engine was installed Thursday on the A-1 Test Stand. The team at NASA's Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi will perform developmental and flight certification testing of the engine, No. 0525, a modified version of the space shuttle main engine that powered missions into space from 1981 to 2011.

The SLS core stage will be powered by four RS-25 engines. Early tests on the engine will collect data on the performance of its new advanced engine controller and other modifications. The core stage of the SLS is being built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. (Post)

-- The Cygnus space capsule designed to resupply the International Space Statino was successfully launched last weekend from Wallops Island, Va., atop an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket. The Antares rocket is powered by twin Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ26 engines, which are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Space Florida is moving ahead with plans for the first commercial development in the nine-acre Pensacola Technology Park in Pensacola, Fla., issuing a request to recruit and architectural firm and citing Sept. 12 as its deadline to negotiate an agreement with one.

The Melbourne-based agency filed a "Request for Qualifications" with Florida officials that detailed its building plans for a nearly 60,000-square-foot facility that would include areas for technological research and training. Space Florida's current plans envision five tenants. (Post)

The Air Force will cut 3,459 positions through a major reorganization of headquarters across the nation and overseas. The Air Force will deactivate and realigning organizations at headquarters Air Force, major commands, numbered air forces and field operating agencies, resulting in savings of $1.6 billion in the next five years. In Northwest Florida, Hurlburt Field will lose 22 positions and Eglin Air Force Base one. (Post)

-- In Florida, Pensacola International Airport launched its new, mobile-friendly website The redesigned site includes new navigation tools. It also includes a new community directory with special events and local promotions. (Post)

Aircraft and weapons
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $278.6 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Lightning II Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract. This modification provides for non-recurring sustainment activities, to include procurement of Depot Phases I-IV sustainment activities. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- Raytheon, the Navy and Air Force have begun Small Diameter Bomb II integration activities on the F-35, F/A-18E/F, and F-16. Preliminary SDB II fit checks and pit tests have been completed on the F-35, supporting the Joint Strike Fighter's ability to carry eight SDB IIs internally. SDB II can strike targets from a range of more than 40 nautical miles, with a dynamic warhead that can destroy both soft and armored targets while keeping collateral damage to a minimum through a small explosive footprint. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center; Eglin AFB manages the SDB Increment II. (Post)

-- Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $8.5 million contract modification for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Production Lot 27. The contract modification provides for integration and testing for AMRAAM contract line item numbers 0008, 0009, and 0010 being produced under the basic contract. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK, Eglin AFB, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- Raytheon has been awarded an $80,768,012 firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee
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. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2016. This award is a result of a sole-source acquisition. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJM, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Other contracts
ST Aerospace secured new contracts to cover aerospace-related jobs such as airframe, component and engine maintenance, cabin modification and pilot training. ST Aerospace is the aerospace unit of Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering). In a statement on Monday, ST Engineering says the contracts include a five-year agreement with a regional U.S. airline for heavy maintenance of 42 Embraer E-170 and E-175 aircraft at its San Antonio facility. ST Aerospace has a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Mobile, Ala., and plans to operate a satellite operation in nearby Pensacola, Fla. … Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a
$17 million contract modification for radar software deficiency corrections. The contract modification is for Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program radar system development and demonstration alignment with the Global Hawk Block 40 program schedule. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. … URS Group Inc., Mobile, Ala., was awarded an $8 million contract for architectural and engineering services for the Mobile District and South Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Gaithersburg, Md.; Jacobs Technology, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; SRA International, Fairfax, Va.; L-3 National Security Solutions, Reston, Va.; Raytheon, Garland, Texas; InfoReliance Corp., Fairfax, Va.; CACI-ISS, Inc., Chantilly, Va.; Northrop Grumman Information Systems, Herndon, Va.; General Dynamics Information Technology, Needham, Mass.; and International Business Machines Corp., Reston, Va., are being awarded a $960,000,000 multiple award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract for Network-Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) Application Service.

Praise: Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, told an audience at a Navy League breakfast in Virginia that he was pleased with the quality of ships being built for the Navy. (Post)
Hamilton: The U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter, Hamilton (WMSL 753), successfully completed builders trials. (Post)
Contract: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $23.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for early industry involvement associated with the LHA(R) Program Flight 1 (LHA 8) ship design to initiate an affordability design phase. (Post)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Week in review (7/6 to 7/12)

One thing for sure is this region will be well represented during the Farnborough International Airshow that starts Monday. Another thing you can count on? You won’t hear many details about results of the visit. But that's the norm. Consider it an investment that takes years to reach fruition.

So who will be there? A delegation of business and community leaders from the greater Mobile area will attend. Mobile is already well-known as the city that landed an Airbus A320 final assembly line, but it has multiple aerospace companies in both Mobile and Baldwin counties. (Post)

The chamber's Leigh Perry-Herndon said the team will post on a blog throughout the show. You can follow it here.

Also attending will be a five-member delegation from Northwest Florida. That team is headed up by Florida’s Great Northwest, the region’s economic development marketing organization. The team has set up appointments over a four-day period. (Post)

Speaking of Florida, the timing of a new report about that state and the aerospace industry couldn't have been better. State officials attending the airshow are likely to point to a new report by Florida TaxWatch that says the state can lead the nation in aircraft manufacturing.

The study says that during the last 10 years, the number of aircraft manufacturing establishments in Florida increased by almost 60 percent. It says commercial aviation in the state is expected to increase by 5 percent annually during the next 20 years. Florida, with 249 aircraft and parts manufacturing establishments, is second to California's 483 establishments. (Post)

The industry
Boeing released its most bullish 20-year forecast for jetliner demand since 2011, saying that the world will need 36,770 new planes worth $5.2 trillion by 2033. The company's annual projection is up 4.2 percent from its 2013 forecast, and it predicted beating rival Airbus Group in the lucrative market for twin-aisle planes as the planes are built and delivered over the next two decades. (Post)

-- Irish leasing company SMBC Aviation Capital is in advanced talks to buy about 100 Airbus aircraft, which could be announced at the Farnborough Airshow next week. The order may include the current generation of A320 single-aisle jetliners and the more fuel-efficient A320neo, and is potentially worth up to $10 billion at list prices. Any A320 sales are of interest to this region, where Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Speaking of that assembly line, Airbus is looking for quality inspectors for both the line and the supply chain. Both the assembly line and supply chain inspector positions require at least nine months' training abroad. (Post)

-- All those jetliners need engines, so we follow those stories closely. It was reported during the week that CFM International, a joint venture of the America's General Electric and France's Safran, is nearing an order from U.K. carrier EasyJet for 200 jet engines valued at $2.6 billion.

The Leap-1A engines would power 100 Airbus Group A320neos that EasyJet agreed to buy in 2013. Coming out on the short end of this is Pratt and Whitney, which also supplies engines for the A320 jet family. The deal may be announced at the Farnborough International Airshow next week.

Both Safran and GE Aviation have operations in the Gulf Coast region. General Electric has a jetliner engine parts plant near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala., and Safran has an engineering center in Mobile. (Post)

In another engine-related item, Canadian plane-maker Bombardier said mid-week that it's testing a fix for its all-new CSeries engine with Pratt and Whitney and expects to resume flight tests in the coming weeks.

An engine failure in late May grounded the jetliner. Despite the delay in flight testing, Bombardier has said it still expects the narrow-body plane will enter service in the second half of 2015 to compete with the smaller jetliners of Boeing and Airbus. (Post)

OK, one more engine-related item, this one about the F-35. The U.S. Navy said late in the week that it's maintaining the grounding order for F-35B and F-35C variants, saying it was still not clear what caused an engine failure on an Air Force F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., last month.

Hopes had been high three F-35Bs would attend the Farnborough International Airshow, which begins next week. The Pratt and Whitney F135 engine caught fire as a pilot was getting ready to take off in an F-35A, the Air Force variant. (Post)

But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a visit to Eglin Air Force Base during the week voiced his support for the program. While at Eglin he spoke to pilots of the F-35 and was told how much they love flying the fifth-generation plane. Hagel's first stop in his two-day tour was Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Southeast Georgia, home to Navy Ohio-class ballistic and guided-missile subs. His final stop is at Fort Rucker in Southeast Alabama, home of Army aviation.

Representatives from Florida's Greater Pensacola Chamber and a delegation of regional partners and educators went to Mobile, Ala., earlier this month to tour aerospace and aviation facilities. The visit was intended to help develop aerospace and aviation workforce training programs and education curricula for Northwest Florida.

They visited ST Aerospace Mobile, which is planning to establish a satellite operation at Pensacola International Airport, as well as Mobile Regional Airport and the Mobile Aeroplex, site of the future Airbus A320 final assembly line. (Post)

Meanwhile, the Escambia County School District and Pensacola State College are creating a training pipeline for the aerospace industry. In the program students can earn airframe and powerplant certification to become mechanics. The program is expected to be in place within two or three years.

The district is beginning a similar aerospace training program at its George Stone Technical Center and has hired an instructor to teach aerospace mechanics. The first class is planned to begin in August of 2015. The district also is planning an aerospace career academy at Washington High School. (Post)

In another workforce-related story during the week, United Airlines said early in the week that it would outsource some 630 ticket and gate agents and baggage handler jobs at 12 American airports, including Pensacola, Fla. United Continental, formed in 2010 through a merger, has been trimming costs since then. One was the closing of the Cleveland hub. (Post)

Kaman Precision Products Inc., Orlando, Fla., was awarded an $8.5 million contract modification for Lot 11 Production of Joint Programmable Fuze systems. The contract modification provides for the exercise of an option for an additional quantity of 3,069 fuze systems being produced under the basic contract. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $6.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide maintenance for Lot VII F-35 air systems in support of the U.S. Marine Corps and the government of the Netherlands. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the pilot and maintainer training center. … Linde LLC was awarded a contract by NASA to supply liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen to six of its research/space flight centers, including Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans.

LHA 6: The Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, LHA 6, set sail from Ingalls Shipbuilding Friday morning. (Post)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Teams from region show-bound

Teams representing portions of the Gulf Coast I-10 region are heading to Europe this week to attend the Farnborough International Airshow near London. They're all hoping to convince aerospace companies that this region is a great place to do business.

The Farnborough show held in Hampshire some 40 miles from London is one of the largest events of its kind. It's held every other year and combines a major trade exhibition with a public air show. This year it's from July 14-20. In 2012 the trade and public shows combined attracted more than 200,000.

For economic development officials, it's an opportunity to meet with a large number of prospects that in normal circumstances would require a lot of travel to separate locations. In addition, the folks who attend the air show are the company's top-ranking officials.

While the official start of the show is Monday, the night before that the Aerospace Alliance, a group representing the aerospace interests of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, will host a reception. This year it's a cruise on the Thames River. There will be 500 attendees, including senior government officials and aerospace industry leaders.

The Aerospace Alliance has gotten pretty good at setting up these well-attended events. It hosted its first reception in 2010 at the Orangery at Kensington Palace, and then in 2012 it was at the Banqueting House. This will be the first cruise in London, which is the same format the Aerospace Alliance has used at the Paris air shows in 2011 and 2013.

Team Mobile will include representatives from Mobile and Baldwin counties. The team will showcase the greater Mobile area's aerospace assets as part of the state of Alabama’s exhibit. And those assets are considerable. While much of the publicity about the Mobile area has been the Airbus A320 final assembly line, that's just one of the assets. The greater Mobile area is also home to UTC Aerospace Systems, ST Aerospace Mobile, Safran, Star Aviation, Continental Motors and more.

The Mobile team will have one-on-one meetings with potential Airbus suppliers, suppliers of some of Mobile’s existing aerospace workforce, and industry executives. And on July 15 the Mobile delegation will host more than 175 invited guests to a reception at the Spencer House. Event hosts include Alabama Power, Alabama State Port Authority, Baldwin County Commission, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, City of Mobile, Mobile Airport Authority, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Mobile County and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

Northwest Florida has also been a consistent participant in international air shows. This year a five-member delegation leaves for London this week with the goal of bringing aviation jobs to the region. Northwest Florida also has a lot going in its favor. It's home to operations of some of the largest aerospace companies in the world, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE systems and more.

Northwest Florida is well known for its massive military activities, including aerial weapons development and military pilot training. One of the most high-profile aerospace activities in the region is the training F-35 pilots and maintainers. It's also the place where pilots for another fifth generation fighter, the F-22, are trained.

The Northwest Florida team is headed up by Florida’s Great Northwest, the region’s economic development marketing organization. The team also has representatives from Gulf Power, PowerSouth, the Greater Pensacola Chamber and Bay County Economic Development Alliance. The team has set up appointments over four days with leading global aerospace companies.

"We will be meeting with the decision makers of aerospace OEMs and major suppliers to discuss why we believe they can be successful in Northwest Florida," said Larry Sassano, president of Florida’s Great Northwest. "Aviation companies are one of our top targets and there is no better place than Farnborough to have a captive audience with this many companies."

The state of Florida will also have a booth at the air show to promote incentives, workforce advantages, tax advantages and other business-friendly programs available to prospective aviation companies. Enterprise Florida will lead a delegation of 11 Florida companies and organizations to the show, said Gray Swoope, Florida Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.

"The show allows us to meet with global leaders in the aerospace industry and share Florida's business story with them," said Swoope. "It also provides a cost-effective opportunity for Florida's small businesses, communities and organizations to exhibit their products and services on the largest stage in the world."

Groups from Mississippi and Louisiana also planned to attend the airshow.

But don't expect to hear much about inroads any of the teams make. They keep things close to their chest. But what you will hear about is the placement of orders. Airbus, Boeing and other companies like to publicize the sales they've made.

In past years, it was Airbus' decision to build an A320 final assembly line in Mobile that drew a lot of attention. This year it's another aircraft with a Gulf Coast connection that will be a hot topic: The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The plan was to have the F-35B, the Marine Corps variant that can take off and land vertically, appear at both the military-oriented Royal International Tattoo July 11-13 and Farnborough. But as of this writing, it's still unclear if the fifth generation fighters will be cleared to fly to Europe.

Earlier this month an F-35A, the Air Force's conventional take-off and landing variant, caught fire as it was getting ready for takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Pentagon grounded the planes while an investigation continues. At issue is the F135 engine made by Pratt and Whitney that powers all variants of the JSF.

This is the second Pratt and Whitney engine type that has caused the grounding of a plane in recent months. In late May, a problem with the low pressure turbine led to a sudden loss of power and failure of a PW1500G on a Bombardier test aircraft during ground runs in Quebec. The incident occurred on the left engine and caused damage to the airframe, leading to the grounding of the CSeries test fleet.

As for the F135 engine, it’s had other problems before the Eglin fire. Earlier in June an F-35B near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., had a major engine oil leak due to a separated oil inlet line from the oil flow management valve fitting. The problem was resolved quickly. Then on Dec. 23, an F135 fan failure developed in the first stage of the JSF’s three-stage unit during ground tests at Pratt and Whitney’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility. The fan cracked during accelerated mission tests on ground engine FX648. The incident had no impact on the current fleet of F-35s, and for good reason.

It happened as the engine reached 77 percent of its required life, 2,200 hours of running time, or about nine years of service as a test engine. The company said the engine had more than four times the hours of any engine used in F-35 flight testing.

And before that, in 2013 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., a crack was discovered in a third-stage low-pressure turbine blade on an F-35 test aircraft. That caused the temporary grounding of the F-35 fleet.

But that's one of the problems with concurrency, the concept of building production models while finishing ground and flight testing. The problems that have been cropping up with the F-35 would have been caught before planes were produced under the normal way of doing business, and the issues wouldn't have received much publicity.

For the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, showing F-35s at Tattoo and Farnborough represented a chance to show progress for the high-priced acquisition program. And that's important since sales for foreign governments will help drive down the cost of each plane.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Week in review (6/29 to 7/5)

Economic development folks from the Gulf Coast region will be heading to the United Kingdom this month for the Farnborough International Airshow. It's held every two years and combines a major trade exhibition with a public air show. This year it's from July 14-20.

Held at the Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, England, the event in 2012 attracted 109,000 trade visitors over the first five days and another 100,000 for the public air show. It's also a time when orders for planes are announced. For economic development officials, it's one of the opportunities to meet with a host of prospects.

This year, plans are still in the works for Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets to make an appearance at both Farnborough and the July 11-13 Royal International Air Tattoo, the world's largest military air show. But we won't know until this coming week whether the plans will attend.

The Air Force and Navy during the week issued directives to ground the F-35 fleet. (Post) That was based on initial findings from the runway fire incident that occurred at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on June 23. An Air Force F-35A caught fire as it was taking off.

The fire involved the third stage of the F135 engine built by Pratt and Whitney. That engine powers all three variants of the fifth generation single-seat fighter. According to one source quoted by Reuters, the engine ripped through the top part of the plane. The fire already prevented a planned F-35 "fly by" at the July 4 naming ceremony of Britain's new aircraft carrier. (Post)

No doubt the F135 issue is of high interest to the engine folks at General Electric and Rolls-Royce. Those two companies developed the F136, an alternative engine for the F-35. Development of the alternative engine was funded for a long time, but it was finally dropped in 2011.

With or without the F-35s, some big names are planning to attend the show. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, will be among the senior American officials going to Farnborough this year. (Post)

Kendall, in addition to attending the Farnborough show, is also expected to travel to Italy to visit a plant in Cameri. Italy is closing in on a deal to become the top maintenance provider for the F-35 in Europe through a unit of aerospace giant Finmeccanica, according to Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $29.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to define the tasks required to update the F-35 to be in compliance with informational security functional constraints. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in January 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Boeing finalized a contract with NASA to develop the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built. The contract, which includes avionics, is valued at $2.8 billion.

The agreement comes as NASA and Boeing complete the Critical Design Review (CDR) on the core stage, the last major review before full production begins. During the CDR, experts examined and confirmed the final design of the rocket's cryogenic stages that will hold liquefied hydrogen and oxygen.

It's NASA's first CDR on a deep-space human exploration launch vehicle since 1961, when the Saturn V rocket underwent a similar review. Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, is building the core stage as well as the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle. Stennis Space Center, Miss., is testing engines for the SLS engines. (Post)

Speaking of those engines, Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed its final J-2X test series at Stennis Space Center. Over three years Aerojet Rocketdyne teams manufactured, assembled, and tested four newly developed engine test articles that achieved an accumulated duration of nearly five hours firing time.

The engine is one of several options being considered to power the upper stage of NASA's future 130-metric-ton Space Launch System, designed to launch crew and cargo to deep space destinations. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $38.4 million contract modification for Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) System Interim Contractor Sustainment Re-vector under cost line item number 0610. Lockheed does core propulsion system work for AEHR at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

American Airlines Group is close to finalizing an order for 200 CFM International engines to equip 100 A320neo jetliners that the airline has on firm order. The deal is worth some $2.6 billion at list price. CFM International is a joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran. The deal is a loss for Pratt and Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, which makes the other engine offered on the A320neo.

This is one of those stories that’s of interest to the Gulf Coast region for a variety of reasons: Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., where Safran has an engineering center. In addition, GE Aviation has a jet engine parts manufacturing plant near Hattiesburg, Miss., and UTC has an operation in Foley, Ala. (Post)

The 919th Special Operations Wing recently welcomed the 2nd Special Operations Squadron, its remotely piloted aircraft unit, to Northwest Florida. The 2nd SOS, comprised of about 140 Air Force reservists formerly located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., began RPA operations at Hurlburt June 14.

The 2nd SOS Airmen are associated with their active-duty counterparts in the 3rd SOS, assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command's 27th SOW at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In addition to changing locations, the squadron also changed aircraft from the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper a couple of months ago. Since its inception, the 2nd SOS has flown 57,225 hours on 2,346 combat support sorties. (Post)

-- Brig. Gen. Mark Brown took command of the 2nd Air Force during a ceremony Thursday at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Brown’s previous assignments was comptroller, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Brown took over from Maj. Gen. Leonard Patrick. (Post)

-- A restored F/A-18 jet painted in the colors of a Blue Angels jet was unveiled at the entrance to Naval Air Station Pensacola during the week. The unveiling was one of a series of events this year marking the 100th anniversary of the base and 50th anniversary of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. (Post)

For those who have wondered why the airports in Pensacola and Panama City have the word “international” as part of their names without having flights to foreign airports, that’s going to be changing in December.

Southwest will begin operating flights from Pensacola and Panama City to Mexico and the Caribbean beginning Dec. 16. The airline also will start those flights from New Orleans Nov. 11.

Southwest Airlines this month added the Caribbean to the list of locations it serves. Flights to the Bahamas, Aruba and Jamaica originate from Atlanta, Baltimore, Orlando, Boston and Pittsburgh. Southwest plans to add flights to Cancun and Los Cabos, Mexico, beginning Aug. 10, and to Mexico City and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on Nov. 2. (Story)

-- During the week, American Airlines Flight 386, traveling from Jacksonville International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport experienced odor in the cabin. As a precaution, the MD-80 landed at Pensacola International Airport without incident. All 115 passengers were placed on another flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. (Post)

Economic development
Loxley Commerce Site is now Baldwin County, Ala.'s sixth site to be designated an Alabama AdvantageSite. The program, a collaboration between the private sector and state and local governments, is aimed at increasing the marketability of locations in Alabama. The 152.5-acre Loxley Commerce Site is about two miles from Interstate 10, and adjacent to the 50-acre Loxley North Property, which received its designation in July of 2013. (Post)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $151.4 million contract to provide organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance and logistics services in support of about 200 T-45 aircraft based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss.; NAS Kingsville, Texas; NAS Pensacola, Fla; and NAS Patuxent River, Md. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $163.2 million contract for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile Program Support and Sustainment (PSAS). Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

NSC: Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $76.5 million fixed-price contract from the U.S. Coast Guard to purchase long-lead materials for the eighth National Security Cutter, Midgett (WMSL 757). (Post)