Saturday, August 30, 2014

Week in review (8/24 to 8/30)

The Interstate 10 corridor is becoming quite the place for aircraft manufacturing.

Bell Helicopter broke ground during the week on an 82,300-square-foot helicopter assembly plant in Lafayette, La., some 135 miles west of New Orleans. That's where the company will assemble the new line of Short Light Single helicopters, the Bell 505, a five-seat, single-engine turbine helicopter.

The Lafayette Aircraft Assembly Center at the 14.5-acre airport site is funded by Louisiana and will be owned by Lafayette Regional Airport. It will be leased by Texas-based Bell. The new plant will create 115 new direct jobs and another 136 new permanent indirect jobs. Bell Helicopter will retain more than 60 jobs in the Lafayette area at two existing facilities that perform rotor blade and composite repair and overhaul. (Post)

Another helicopter, this one unmanned, is assembled to the east of Lafayette in Moss Point, Miss. The newest variant, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, uses a Bell 407 airframe. Moss Point is also where fuselage work is done for the Global Hawk family of unmanned aircraft.

Then keep going east and in Mobile, Ala., production will begin next year on another aircraft, this one the Airbus A320. That's the plane that’s received the most publicity from this region, and small wonder since it's a major inroad into this region by the European aircraft maker.

Keep heading east from Mobile and another helicopter, the Safari 400, is built in the small Interstate 10 town of Marianna. The two-seat helicopter is built by CHR International, and can be purchased either as a kit or assembled by the company.

From there you head to Jacksonville and you’ll find an Embraer plant in a hangar at Jacksonville International Airport. That's where Embraer and partner Sierra Nevada are assembling the A-29 Super Tucano light support aircraft.

If you want to take a look at other aerospace products made along the I-10 corridor, take a look at Chapter 1 of this year's Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor book. Aircraft assembly is just one aspect of the aerospace products made along the corridor.

The engine for the F-35 fighter continues to make headlines.

F135 engine-maker Pratt and Whitney briefly suspended delivery of the engine in May because of questions about titanium provided to a parts supplier. The company said Friday that it discovered conflicting documentation in late May that raised questions about the origin of the titanium.

The company determined that the material didn't pose a flight safety risk, and that the part will be replaced by attrition. A federal investigation is being conducted into the source of the titanium. Pratt and Whitney said it was no longer accepting parts made from material provided by the supplier. (Post)

In another F135 story during the week, Pratt and Whitney said it's close to performing tests on a potential design change for its F135 engine following a June fire aboard an F-35 fighter at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

That June 23 fire was caused by excessive rubbing of a fan blade inside the engine of an F-35A model, the Air Force variant. Inspectors are still investigating the root cause of the incident to determine if it was a manufacturing or design flaw. But the company nonetheless came up with an apparent fix. The fire hit as the plane was getting ready to take off. The incident forced the grounding of the F-35, which was not able to make two shows in the UK. (Post)

There were four contracts awarded during the week in connection with the F-35.

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $9.5 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract. This modification provides for support equipment for the F135 propulsion systems to include handling, testing, and maintenance equipment and parts required to keep systems operational such as borescope inspection kits, main engine inlet covers, lift nozzle module slings, lift gearbox adapters, and water wash cart systems. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

In another contract, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $122.2 million modification to a previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract for the procurement of support equipment for the F-35 such as sensor covers, tool sets, vacuum clamp sets, and heat gun assemblies. The Naval Air Systems Command in Maryland is the contracting activity. (Post)

The company also was awarded a $20 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract. This modification provides site activation efforts required for the stand-up of the United Kingdom Joint Strike Fighter Academic Training Center at Royal Air Force Marham, UK. The Naval Air Systems Command in Maryland is the contracting activity. (Post)

Also, the company was awarded an $8.2 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract. This modification provides for the maintenance and support for the F-16 chase aircraft supporting the F-35. The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity. (Post)

Military aircraft
While we're on the subject of military aircraft, here's a couple of additional items of interest to the Gulf Coast I-10 aerospace corridor.

The Air Force soon will finalize the conversion of a fleet of F-16s into unmanned target drone aircraft by shooting one with an air-to-air missile fired from an F-15. The missile will not have a warhead.

Boeing in 2010 was awarded the contract to convert retired F-16 A and C models into QF-16 drones to replace QF-4s, converted Phantom jets. Low-rate initial production in Jacksonville, Fla., is expected to begin in September. Most of those QF-16s will go to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Interestingly, Boeing is studying the suitability of using the F-16 as an operational unmanned air vehicle like the General Atomics Predator or Reaper. (Post)

In another military aircraft story, the American Beagle Squadron returned to Tyndall after being deactivated for four years. The 325th Operations Group Adversary Air program became the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron during a reactivation ceremony Aug. 22, marking the return of the World War II American Beagle Squadron.

The new 2nd FTS' mission is to provide adversary threat replication. The Beagles fly T-38 Talons as adversaries against Tyndall's F-22 Raptors during training. The T-38 costs around six to seven times less than the F-22, and cost far less to fly. The 2nd FTS has 18 T-38s. (Post)

While we're on the subject military aircraft, there was an item in Politico during the week that said major defense contractors are getting smaller. The number of employees at the five largest U.S. defense firms dropped 14 percent from a peak in 2008, and 10 percent over the past decade, according to an analysis of employment figures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The analysis included Lockheed Martin, Boeing's defense unit, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop. The five have in total eliminated 70,000 jobs since 2008, largely through layoffs, buyouts, attrition or, in the case of Boeing, moving employees to the commercial side of the business. (Post)

Commercial aircraft
Airbus Americas is hiring quality inspectors for its $600 million A320 final assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala. The company, which will eventually build 40 to 50 A320s a year in Mobile, is seeking both final assembly line and flight line quality inspectors. (Post)

-- China Aircraft Leasing reached an agreement with Airbus to buy four A320 jetliners for an aggregate basic price of about $375.6 million. The company also said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that it had signed agreements to lease two Airbus A320 aircraft to Sichuan Airlines and another four to Chengdu Airlines. (Post)

-- Bank of China’s aircraft leasing subsidiary, Singapore-based BOC Aviation, announced an order for 82 Boeing planes with a listed value of $8.8 billion. It includes 50 737 MAX 8s, 30 737-800s and two 777-300ERs. The announcement came less than six weeks after the company ordered 43 A320s from Airbus at the Farnborough International Airshow.

Meanwhile, French aerospace group Safran said BOC Aviation placed an engine order worth an estimated $2 billion with CFM International, a joint venture between Safran and General Electric. The order is for 100 LEAP-1B engines to power 50 new 737 Max 8 aircraft and 60 CFM56-7BE engines to power 30 next generation 737s. Safran has an engineering center in Mobile, Ala., and GE Aviation has engine parts plants near Hattiesburg, Miss., and Auburn, Ala. (Post)

-- India’s Air One Aviation Pvt. is seeking $2 billion worth of jets to take on Singapore Airline Ltd’s venture in the country. Air One, among six companies that last month got initial approval to start airlines in India, is looking at Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s. Air One plans to start full-service flights in mid-2015. (Post)

-- Qantas Airways has converted orders for 21 Airbus A320 aircraft into the re-engined A320neo variant and deferred the delivery by four years. This means Australia's flag carrier now has orders for 99 Airbus A320neos, and the airline said the move is part of the latest restructuring of its order book. (Post)

-- Rising demand for new airplanes from airlines around the world has increased shipments of engines and airplane parts from United Technologies’ aerospace division, consisting of Pratt and Whitney and UTC Aerospace System segments. UTC Aerospace Systems in Foley, Ala., is Baldwin County’s largest manufacturing employer, and does original equipment work and maintenance, repair and overhaul work on nacelle components. (Post)

-- General Electric has redesigned the engines that will power the Boeing 777X to have thinner and stronger blades than any GE engine in service. GE has designed advanced carbon-fiber composite fan blades for its GE9x engine, and the 777X will have two of them. It has been a decade since GE designed a new composite fan blade for the GEnx engine. IHI Corp., Snecma and Techspace Aero and MTU Aero Engines have also joined the effort to develop the GE9X. (Post)

Defense Support Services LLC, Marlton, N.J., was awarded a $14.9 million modification exercising option year six under the Aerial Targets contract. The modification provides for Air Combat Command Acquisition Management and Integration Center contracting and program management oversight to include functional and quality assurance support for the aerial targets program which directly supports live-fire weapons system testing and enables the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group in the developmental and operational weapons testing for all air-to-air missiles, and for the F-22, F-35, F-16, and F-15 aircraft. Work will be performed primarily at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. … Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., was awarded a maximum $144 million contract for supply chain management of industrial hardware used in aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul. Locations of performance are Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and California, with a Sept. 30, 2017, performance completion date. … Whitesell-Green Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was among six companies awarded a $537.8 million contract for construction services for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division and other Southwestern Fort Worth and Southwestern Division on a limited nationwide basis. Work and funding will be determined with each order. … Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded $21.4 million delivery order 0096 against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement for non-recurring engineering in support of the MV-22 Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment Universal Urgent Needs Statement Effort. Four percent of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. … Areté Associates, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $10.3 million modification to previously awarded contract for engineering services in support of AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block 1 program. The primary mission of AN/DVS-1 COBRA is to conduct unmanned aerial tactical reconnaissance in littoral battle space for detection and localization of mine fields and obstacles in the surf zone and beach zone prior to amphibious assault. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. … M1 Support Services, Denton, Texas, was awarded a $17.7 million modification, exercising option year three to the fixed-price-plus-award-fee contract to continue T-38 program management, organizational and intermediate maintenance services support for Air Combat Command's T-38 Companion Trainer program. Some of the work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week in review (8/17 to 8/23)

You could put this under the category of the growing Airbus Group footprint in the Gulf Coast region.

Lawmakers during the week approved the Army's request to reprogram $111 million to pay for 21 more UH-72A Lakota helicopters for training at Fort Rucker, Ala.. That's according to sources cited by InsideDefense.

Those twin-engine helicopters with a four-blade main rotor are made by Airbus Helicopters in Columbus, Miss., which earlier this month signed a contract to lease office space in Daleville, Ala., not far from Fort Rucker. The space will be occupied Sept. 1.

As part of the Army's plan to reduce costs, it's restructuring its helicopter fleet. That includes divesting OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and using AH-64 Apaches to meet the armed aerial scout mission. In addition, Lakotas are replacing the Bell TH-67 as the Army's primary training helicopter at Fort Rucker. (Post)

Add that to Airbus' growing presence in this region.

In Mobile, Ala., Airbus is building a $600 million final assembly line for A320 jetliner at the Mobile Aeroplex. It will begin production in 2015 and roll out its first jetliner in 2016, and eventually produce 40 to 50 aircraft each year. Airbus also has an engineering center at the Aeroplex, which pre-dates the assembly line.

Across town at the Mobile Regional Airport you'll find Airbus Military North America's MRO delivery center. And lest we forget, about two hours away from Mobile in Andalusia there's an operation of Vector Aerospace, which in 2011 was bought by what's now Airbus Helicopters.

Think Airbus Group likes it here?

-- In another Airbus story this week, Information Transport Solutions Inc., of Wetumpka, Ala., was awarded the networking contract for the A320 final assembly line in Mobile. ITS will provide Airbus with network components for its local area network, fixed port and wireless, IP telephony and video teleconferencing. ITS will conduct the Airbus project from its Mobile offices and provide backup redundancy from the Wetumpka headquarters near Montgomery. (Post)

Enterprise State Community College's Alabama Aviation Center wants to expand its footprint at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. It offers the state's only aviation maintenance program, provides both airframe and powerplant training as well as dual-enrollment programs in both Mobile and Baldwin counties for high school students. It's wants to secure space in the Aeroplex's warehouse area. (Post)

-- Over in Northwest Florida, the Santa Rosa County got a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to resurface and expand the tarmac at Peter Prince Airport. One business at the airport, Trident Aviation, expects to benefit from that expansion. It broke ground during the week on a new hanger and office building. Trident provides aviation students with their first training in the cockpit before they start flying in military aircraft. (Post)

Orbital Sciences successfully completed its third cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft was launched July 13 atop the company's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in east Virginia. The Antares rocket is powered by AJ-26 engines tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

But for SpaceX things didn't go so well during the week. The company, the first commercial company to successfully bring supplies to the ISS, suffered a setback Friday when an unmanned test flight of a rocket exploded over Texas. The test was of a three-engine version of the F9R test vehicle. There were no injuries. SpaceX also has ties to Stennis Space Center, which it plans to use to help it develop its Raptor engine.

Northrop Grumman is talking to Britain, Germany and Norway about its Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance plane, according to a company executive. The Global Hawks are all built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Andrew Tyler, Northrop’s UK and European chief, thinks a $1.7 billion contract the company signed with NATO for a five-drone surveillance and intelligence system in 2012 will help boost European sales.

Germany is already familiar with the Global Hawk. Northrop remains in long-running talks with the country about a stalled $1.6 billion purchase of four Euro Hawks. (Post)

Another of Northrop Grumman’s unmanned aircraft, the X-47B combat plane, returned to carrier operations aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Aug. 17. It completed a series of tests, operating safely with manned aircraft.

The first series of manned/unmanned operations began when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B, then after an eight-minute flight the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The F/A-18 landed right after the X-47B. (Post) You can bet the naval aviators who begin their training in Northwest Florida are keeping close tabs on this.

Honolulu-based Navatek Boat Builders has delivered its “Bladerunner 35” high-speed vessel to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for use as a military target support boat. The 35-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat was built in 2006. It has a top speed of more than 50 knots and will be used in simulated missions and military exercises. (Post)

OroconCarothers, JV1, Oxford, Miss., was awarded $28.4 million task order under a multiple award construction contract for renovation and repairs of Building 603, Saufley Field at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Work will be done in Pensacola and is expected to be completed by August 2016. … L-3 Communications Corp., Link Simulation and Training Division, Arlington, Texas, was awarded $15.5 million delivery order against a previously issued agreement for the procurement of 25 system configuration sets, Navy Aviation Simulation Master Plans, Next Generation Threat System upgrades and 25 liquid crystal display spare kits in support of the F/A-18 Tactical Operational Flight Trainer Suites. Ten percent of the work will be performed at Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. … Nova Technologies, Panama City, Fla., was awarded a $55 million modification to a contract for modification of the fire training system for simulated battlefield training of fire support specialists, joint fire observers and soldiers at the institutional and unit level. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $13.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide logistics services for aircraft availability of 96 TH-57 aircraft. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in May 2015.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Week in review (8/10 to 8/16)

NASA is looking at two proposals to develop green space around the 43-acre Michoud Assembly Facility in east New Orleans. The federal agency in early May issued a notice seeking input from parties interested in developing some 300 acres of green space around the complex.

No details are available at this point about the proposals, but it's not surprising that there would be interest. This is all happening at a time when commercial companies are getting more and more involved in space. And the Stennis-Michoud area has a lot to offer.

Michoud is a huge production facility with a history of building large aerostructures for NASA programs. It's just off Interstate 10 and where production work was done on the first space-bound Orion. It's also where the core stage of the Space Launch System is being built, and the site where composite structures for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser are being built.

The acreage around Michoud would be ideal for a variety of space-related activities of commercial companies. And keep in mind, while initially these companies are taking on cargo missions to the International Space Station, plans go well beyond that. Some are intent on setting up habitats in space.

What makes the Michoud acreage even more appealing is that some 40 miles away is Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The center for rocket engine testing also has acreage available for development, as well as underutilized facilities being offered for space-related ventures.

To read Lisa Monti’s newsletter story on Michoud and the development proposals, click here.

Nine Airmen are now the first Air Force recruits to graduate initial skills technical training as F-35 crew chiefs. They completed Mission-Ready Airmen training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., earlier this month.

The airmen went through months of training within the 82nd Training Wing that spanned two bases and three squadrons. After basic training, they headed to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for aircraft fundamentals with the 362nd Training Squadron.

Then it was on to Eglin, first for F-35-specific training with the 359th Training Squadron followed by Mission-Ready Airmen training with Detachment 19, 372nd Training Squadron. (Post)

Meanwhile, the Pentagon eased more limitations on flights of some F-35s. Limitations were imposed in the wake of a June 23 engine failure at Eglin. That fire led to the grounding of the F-35 fleet for more than three weeks.

Twenty-plus F-35 test planes now will be able to fly six hours between engine inspections, up from three. But test flights of dozens of F-35 trainers, operated by the Air Force and Marine Corps, are still subject to the three-hour mandatory engine inspections, according to the F-35 program office.

Some flight restrictions were already lifted last month. The cause of the fire aboard an F-35 as it was taking off at Eglin is still being investigated. (Story)

In another F-35 news item during the week, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $232.8 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI contract.

The modification provides for non-recurring sustainment activities, including procurement of 19 training devices and 69 items of complex support equipment. Nearly all the work, 96 percent, will be done in Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be completed in June 2017. (Post)

A lot of what we write about when it comes to Lockheed Martin involves its operations elsewhere in the country. But the nation's No. 1 defense contractor has a fairly large footprint in the Gulf Coast region, including an operation at Fort Walton Beach that focused on the F-35 program.

Lockheed opened its Fort Walton Beach shop less than 20 years ago and now has 1,000 workers in the area. It provides much of the maintenance and support for the F-35 at Eglin, as well as most of the academic and simulator training. But it’s also involved in Eglin’s weapons programs, as well as other aircraft programs.

To read Will Rabb's newsletter story on Lockheed's Fort Walton Beach operation, click here.

While much of the fifth-generation fighter stories from this region are about the F-35, the Gulf Coast is also home to the F-22 fighter. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is home of an operational squadron, and also where Raptor pilots are trained.

Along those lines, the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall graduated eight F-22 Raptor B-course students in a ceremony earlier this month. The students completed an eight-month course of instruction, including 388 academic hours, 26 examinations, 39 sorties and 47 simulator missions.

The B-course entails transition and emergency procedures, instrument tasks, as well as day and night air-to-air refueling. The students are also educated on air-to-air employment, air-to-ground employment, basic low altitude employment and night employment.

At course completion, students have flown approximately 55 hours and are prepared to begin mission qualification training in their combat unit. Once complete with MQT these students will be fully qualified to employ the F-22 in an air dominance role. (Post)

Airbus during the week posted its latest round of hourly manufacturing positions for its A320 final assembly line being built in Mobile, Ala. Airbus is seeking candidates for systems installation, cabin interiors, sheet metal specialists, corrosion protectors, ground handling technicians, tool shop attendants and composite rework specialists. (Post)

In addition to A320 plant jobs, any supplier-related story is of interest to this region. That said, core assembly of the first pair of CFM International Leap-1A engines to power the Airbus A320neo is underway. The flight-test engines are being assembled at General Electric’s production facility in Durham, N.C. The engine competes with Pratt and Whitney's PW1100G for the A320neo market.

CFM International is a joint venture of GE Aviation, a division of General Electric, and Snecma, and division of France's Safran, which has an engineering center in Mobile. GE Aviation has an engine parts plant in Auburn, Ala., Ellisville and Batesville, Miss. (Post)

In another supplier-related story, Airbus signed a contract with the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp., a state-owned Taiwanese aerospace company, making it a new tier-one supplier. The company will supply composite panels for the aft belly fairings of the A320 aircraft family. As all of you who follow Airbus know, the company has an A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, China. (Story)

Officials at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) in West Bay near Panama City, Fla., hope a federal transportation grant will be key to landing daily air service from Bay County to New York City.

One airline is supporting the effort is JetBlue. ECP Director Parker McClellan said a letter of support from low-cost airline, and McClellan says it will give the Airport Authority some teeth as it seeks funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Grant.

The letter says the airline is considering service to Northwest Florida from Kennedy International Airport as part of its five-year growth plan. (Post) By the way, if you like to spot other connections to the Gulf Coast region, JetBlue is the airline that will take delivery of the first A320 being built in Mobile.

Company profile
If you took a look at our bi-monthly newsletter, you know that one of our goals is to highlight aerospace companies in this region. One that we tackled was TPR Systems Inc., which is already expecting to grow. The company, begun in 2002 and formerly named Turbine Parts and Repair, recently relocated to the Santa Rosa County Industrial Park in Milton, Fla.

Its new site has an extra 2.5 acres for expansion for the company that specializes in machining and manufacturing, but can also do repairs and testing on existing equipment. TPR Systems Chief Operations Manager Chuck Pyritz expects the company to need the space in two years. To read Duwayne Escobedo's story on the company, click here.

Another company we highlighted was Star Aviation of Mobile, Ala. It's marking its 15th anniversary this month, and has grown from a five-man operation to a company with 115 employees. So what does it do?

The ability to text, email and surf the Web on a jet flying tens of thousands of feet above the earth is taken for granted by travelers these days. But behind the scenes there are companies like Star Aviation working to make that happen.

Gordon Smart, executive vice president of operations, says the goal over the next five years is to grow the company by 30 to 50 percent. Not bad. To read Kaija Wilkinson's newsletter story on the company, click here.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $240.7 million modification for three Block 30M RQ-4B Global Hawk air vehicles, each containing an Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite and an Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP), plus two additional ASIP sensors as retrofit kits. Global Hawk central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss. … HDR Engineering Inc., Pensacola, Fla., Thompson Engineering Inc., Mobile, Ala., and Baskerville-Donovan Inc., also of Mobile, were among five companies awarded a $36 million contract for architect and engineering services to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers design program for the Mobile District's Central, South America, Caribbean, and South Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile is the contracting activity.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Week in review (8/3 to 8/9)

The August edition of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League aerospace newsletter will be published Tuesday. You can get the 8-page PDF at Gulf Coast Aerospace Individual stories also will be posted on the daily aerospace news feed during the week. Prefer to get the newsletter delivered to you? Just ask and we’ll include you on our list.

In the latest issue, Lisa Monti will tell you about a couple of proposals that NASA is looking at to develop some 300 acres around the 43-acre Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Then Kaija Wilkinson writes about Star Aviation of Mobile. Some of the things you take for granted while flying can be traced to the work of this company.

William Rabb will fill you in on what the nation’s No. 1 defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, does at its Fort Walton Beach, Fla., operation. Think F-35, think weapons. And then Duwayne Escobedo will tell you all about TPR Systems, a newcomer to an industrial park in Milton, Fla. It’s already thinking expansion.

Now for the week in review:

Airbus, which is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., overtook Boeing in unadjusted aircraft orders for 2014 after last month's Farnborough Airshow, but continued to lag when cancellations are included. Airbus won 980 aircraft orders between January and July, and said it had 705 net orders. Airbus has said its haul of orders at Farnborough marked its best ever performance at the UK's biennial aerospace event. Boeing reported 837 gross orders and 783 net sales after cancellations between Jan. 1 and July 29. (Post)

-- With the Gulf Coast region hoping to attract Airbus suppliers, an item out of China shows another possibility. China's Xian Aircraft Industry is now sole supplier of wings to the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Tianjin.

After starting with system installation on Broughton, UK-made wings in 2009, Xian Aircraft started producing wing structures, then entire wing boxes. Since this summer, all wings for the Tianjin FAL are supplied by XAIC. (Post)

-- Dave Trent, site director for Airbus Americas, was among the greeters Thursday morning as B.C. Rain High School students returned to campus for the first day of school. Airbus is the school’s “Signature Business Partner” for its Aviation and Aerospace Academy. (Post)

The Mississippi-built fuselage of the first Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned aerial vehicle for NATO has been completed. It was built at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point plant. It will go to California where the aircraft will be completed. The aircraft is one of five for NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance project. The Global Hawks will be located at the AGS main operating base at Sigonella Air Base, Italy. (Post)

A fuel-resistant asphalt mix that’s already being used at several airports has now been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Called P-601 Fuel Resistant Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement, it was developed by Niceville, Fla.-based engineering firm AVCON and retired engineer Bob Boyer. The mixture uses smaller pieces of rock than traditional asphalt, and plastic is added to make it more rigid. (Post)

L-3 Communications Corp., SFS, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $15.8 million modification to a contract to add eight C-12s to the life cycle contractor support maintenance contract for the Army's fleet of C-12/RC-12/UC-35 aircraft. Work will be performed in Madison. … Veteran Corps of America, O'Fallon, Ill., was awarded a $10 million contract for TruDefender FTX Handheld Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) for chemical identification. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Jan. 28, 2015. 772 Enterprise Sourcing Squadron/PKD, Tyndall Air Force Base is the contracting activity.

LCS: Both variants of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships, including the type made in Mobile, Ala., are being cranked out in an anticipated 2015 banner-year fashion. (Post)
DDG: Ingalls Shipbuilding has delivered the composite deckhouse for the destroyer Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) to the U.S. Navy. (Post)
JHSV4: The Austal USA-built Joint High-Speed Vessel Fall River (JHSV 4) has completed its last significant milestone, before delivery to the Navy, concluding acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of July. (Post)
Barges: More ships are in the works to be built in Escatawpa, Miss., by VT Halter Marine. (Post)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Week in review (7/27 to 8/2)

I'll get to the week in review in a moment, but first, every now and then it makes sense to remind my readers, new and old, the aerospace news and information publications we have available. There's something for everyone at Here's a summary:

Daily: If you want to follow activities in this region as they develop, try the daily aerospace news digest. It monitors newspapers, broadcasters, public relations offices and more to tell you what's going on in this region on the aerospace front. It provides you with a link to the original source.

Weekly: This provides all the information from the daily feed but is designed for folks who want to get it all once a week. It groups the information based on topics, and puts it in context. It also occasionally has items not found on the daily feed.

Bi-monthly newsletter: Last year we introduced a quarterly, 8-page newsletter, and it's been popular enough and there are enough aerospace and aviation stories that we decided to publish it more frequently. Next month it begins publishing every other month. It will always appear on the website listed above, but if you want we can send it to you via email. Write to me and I’ll put you on the list.

Annual: We publish an annual book on aerospace and aviation activities in the region, and we just published the fourth edition in June. Like all the other publications, it's free thanks to our underwriters who want this work to continue.

OK, now for your week in review:

French engineering company Assystem is the latest company to announce plans for a Mobile, Ala., operation. The Paris-based company has 11,000 employees in 19 countries and is expected to have about 10 people in Mobile.

The company has worked with Airbus, General Electric, Rolls Royce, Safran and others. It offers aerospace, energy, automotive and other clients project consulting and IT services, specializing in outsourced research and development in fields such fields as embedded computing, optics and infrared, digital modeling and simulation and ergonomics. (Post)

Commercial aviation
Boeing forecasts growth in demand for commercial pilots and maintenance technicians as the global fleet expands over the next 20 years. The 2014 Pilot and Technician Outlook says that between 2014 and 2033, there will be a need for 533,000 new commercial airline pilots and 584,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians. North America is projected to need 88,000 pilots and
109,000 technicians. (Post)

-- The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $12 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with regulations in three enforcement cases related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners.

The FAA claims that beginning in 2006, Southwest conducted alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA conducted an investigation that included both the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, Wash.

The FAA determined that ATS failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage skins on these aircraft. Southwest has 30 days to respond. In this region, Southwest serves New Orleans, Pensacola and Panama City. (Post)

-- In New Orleans, Florida-based Spirit Airlines has added direct flights to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Houston's Bush Intercontinental. It also plans nonstop flights from Louis Armstrong International Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Detroit beginning Nov. 6. (Post)

-- Relocation of the Panama City–Bay County International Airport to West Bay, further from Panama City itself, hindered general aviation activity. But the airport's fixed-base operator, Sheltair, sees improvements and now want more space at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The request will go before the authority next month. Sheltair, a Fort Lauderdale-based company, operates 14 facilities across the U.S., with locations in Florida, Georgia and New York. (Post)

The 815th Airlift Squadron will remain at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., for now, and when it might be deactivated is unclear. Community leaders are waiting to hear whether the decision to delay deactivation of the 815th could lead to C-130 aircraft remaining at Keesler Air Force Base. The Air Force has been planning to move 10 C-130s from Keesler to Arkansas, but those plans have been tabled for now. (Post)

-- The F35B Joint Strike Fighter recently completed required wet runway and crosswind testing at Edward Air Force Base, Calif. It's an important program milestone enabling U.S. Marines Corps Initial Operational Capability certification.

In other achievements, four aircraft surpassed flight hour milestones, demonstrating program maturity and reliability: F-35C aircraft CF-1 and F-35A aircraft AF-4 achieved 500 flight hours, and F-35C aircraft CF-5 achieved 100 flight hours.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center for the three plane variants. (Post)

-- The cost to develop the Triton unmanned reconnaissance plane for the Navy has increased by at least 25 percent, or $720 million, according to the Navy and congressional investigators. The scheduled dates to begin production and then deployment of the Northrop Grumman-built drone have each slipped by more than two years. The Navy plans to buy some 70 of the MQ-4 Tritons, which are based on the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.

The projected start of initial production has been delayed by 31 months to December 2015 from the original goal of May 2013. The target date to declare an initial squadron of the drones ready for combat has slipped to April 2018 from December 2015. The projected start of full-rate production, the most lucrative phase for a contractor, has slipped to January 2018 from December 2015. Triton central fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

NASA's Orion spacecraft is not ready for liftoff, but the spacecraft thinks it's already flown six missions. Since Orion's crew module was stacked on top of its service module in June, the vehicle has been put through a series of tests designed to verify all the individual systems work on their own in the new configuration and that they'll work together as a functional unit during flight.

And the best way to do that is to trick the vehicle into thinking that it's flying, so that it will perform exactly the same functions it will be called upon to perform in December, when Orion launches into space for the first time.

The Orion capsule was built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans; Stennis Space Center, Miss., will test the RS-25 engines that will be power the first stage of the Space Launch System, which will eventually be used to launch Orion. (Post)

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $29.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide organizational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance and logistics support for T45TS aircraft based at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Six percent of the work will be done in Pensacola. … Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., was awarded a $10.4 million modification under a previously awarded contract for information technology ashore operations support services in support of Military Sealift Command's Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems directorate. Some 2.4 percent of the work will be done in Pensacola, Fla.

RO/RO: The Alabama State Port Authority has identified a site for a $54 million automotive shipping terminal. (Post)