Saturday, February 7, 2015

Week in review (2/1 to 2/7)

The next edition of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League bimonthly newsletter will be available Tuesday. It's an eight-page PDF with stories about aerospace activities in the I-10 region between New Orleans and Northwest Florida.

In the Feb. 10 issue, writer Kaija Wilkinson has a cover story about the Airbus A320 assembly line in Mobile, and the shipment that will bring in the aircraft sections from Europe. They'll become the first American-made Airbus jetliner, a JetBlue A321.

There's also a story by yours truly about Avalex Technologies, the Gulf Breeze company doing innovative work in the growing field of surveillance. Foreign sales are taking off, and Avalex has enough land and space that it could become the core of a high-tech park.

Writer Tom McLaughlin will tell you about DRS Training & Control Systems of Fort Walton Beach. It's an old dog, so to speak, of this region's defense contractors, but it's playing a key role improving training capabilities of the world's most advanced fighter, the F-35.

Last but not least, writer Connie Baggett will fill you in on the aviation activities in rural counties of South Alabama. You may be surprised just how much is going on in the area north of the more metropolitan coastal region.

You can find the newsletter Tuesday at the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor website. The download is free thanks to underwriters Gulf Power, Santa Rosa Economic Development and Mobile Airport Authority. If you prefer, you can subscribe to have the newsletter PDF delivered directly to your inbox. There’s no charge, and the list will never be used for anything else. Just drop me an email with subscribe on the subject line.

Now for your week in review:

Airbus' list of companies interested in buying A320 jetliners continues to grow. Avianca Holdings S.A. has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus for 100 A320neo family aircraft, according to a press release from Airbus.

Avianca, of Bogota, Colombia, will base its fleet renewal strategy on the A320neo family, Airbus said. To date, the A320neo program has 245 firm orders from seven customers in Latin America: Avianca, Azul, Interjet, LAN, TAM, VivaAerobus and Volaris.

Airbus will open its A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala., later this year. Other A320 assembly lines are in Germany, France and China. (Post)

Here's some good news for Moss Point, Miss., home of the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center that's involved in building portions of two robotic aircraft.

Northrop Grumman will begin production of four RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems for the Republic of Korea's air force. Those systems will provide wide-area intelligence gathering capabilities to military commanders in the allied nation.

Under a contract awarded Dec. 16, the company will work with the U.S. Air Force to deliver the systems starting in 2018. The contract is for four aircraft, two ground stations and supporting equipment.

It's the first time Global Hawk has been sold to an allied nation in the Asia-Pacific region under the Foreign Military Sales process. Moss Point will be handling the central fuselage work for those Global Hawks. (Post)

The Pegasus barge that was designed to transport Space Shuttle external tanks from New Orleans to Florida is well on its way to being supersized. Its new role will be to transport the huge Space Launch System stages being built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The larger Pegasus is set to transport the first major SLS hardware from New Orleans to NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., for testing as early as next year.

The barge's final role in shuttle program was when it shipped Space Shuttle Main Engine ground support equipment to Stennis from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The barge was mothballed at Stennis in 2011, and is now being modified by Conrad Shipyard LLC in Amelia, La. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $36.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Space Based Infra-Red Systems (SBIRS) follow-on production. The contract is being modified to change the initial launch capability dates for SBIRS Geosynchronous Earth Orbit 3-4 space vehicles in order to support new launch manifest dates and procure storage for the GEO-3 space vehicle. Work will be done in Sunnyvale and will be completed by June 30, 2018.

Space and Missile System Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity. But there's also a Gulf Coast connection. The SBIRS is an A2100 satellite-based spacecraft. Work on the A2100 core's propulsion system, which positions the spacecraft in orbit, is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $35.6 million delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement to complete a Joint Strike Missile (JSM) risk reduction and integration study of the F-35 Air System for the government of Norway.

The objectives of the study are to further mature JSM weapon design and to ensure compatibility of the weapon with the F-35. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and Kongsberg, Norway, and is expected to be completed in March 2018.

The Naval Air Systems Command of Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

The city of Pensacola is looking at beefing up security at Pensacola International Airport with a high-tech electronic system that will cost $533,000 to install. That system will use cameras and motion detection software to stop people from entering the concourse area through the exit lane, which could allow passengers to bypass security. A visible or audible warning will alert airport personnel and automatically close doors to prevent access to the concourse area if someone enters the area through the exit lane. (Post)

-- The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron will conduct flight and boat operations Monday through Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico some eight to 20 miles south of Destin and in Choctawhatchee Bay. Fighter aircraft will release munitions in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Gulf of Mexico within a cordoned, cleared surface range safety corridor. In the afternoon, around 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., approximately 30 boats will be used as visual targets by fighter aircraft and helicopters flying mid to low level altitudes. No weapons or ammunition will be involved in the flights in the Choctawhatchee Bay. (Post)

Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md., was awarded a $16.6 million delivery order to a previously awarded contract for the procurement of field upgradeable kits and fleet support for conversion of the AN/AQS-24A mine detecting sensor systems to the AN/AQS-24B configuration. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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