Saturday, March 7, 2015

Week in review (2/29 to 3/7)

With both Airbus and Boeing gearing up for increasing production of A320 and 737 jetliners, at least one research firm is warning that there may end up being more planes than the airline market can absorb.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts warn that the two giants may be on a path to produce more jetliners than the airline market can absorb. Airbus and Boeing are planning to hike production of the two families of jets by 20 percent between 2014 and 2018. That’s on top of a previous increase from 2010 to 2014.

But a big drop in aircraft retirements, lower oil prices and the possibility of higher interest rates in the U.S. could combine to weaken demand and lead to a glut of jets, according to the Merrill Lynch analysts.

Of course we’ll have to see how all this pans out over time, but anything about A320 production is of high interest to our region. Airbus is building an assembly line for A320 jets in Mobile, Ala., that will open this year. In fact, the first shipment of large sections from Europe will arrive in Mobile in June.

The first plane, an A321 for JetBlue, will be delivered in 2016, and when in full swing the plant will produce four or five jetliners a month. The company is continuing to hire to fill what will eventually be about 1,000 jobs.

Airbus planes aside, this whole region is gearing up for a larger aerospace footprint. The Alabama Aviation Center is holding an Aviation Career Fair and Open House March 13. It's the second such fair for the Aviation Center in five months.

Ten employers and recruiters from the Air National Guard and Air Force will be on hand. The career fair is coordinated by the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council and the aviation center of Enterprise State Community College. The Alabama Aviation Center is at the Mobile Aeroplex. (Post)

Meanwhile, across from Mobile in Pensacola, Fla., Aero Sekur, specialist in helicopter lift-raft and flotation systems, is relocating its U.S. subsidiary from Parsippany, N.J., to a Pensacola site that's three times larger. The move provides the company with an 8,000 square-foot facility for its administrative offices, maintenance repair and overhaul operations and spare parts buildings.

The site is west of Interstate 110 and north of Town and Country Plaza. Aero Sekur, headquartered in Italy, specializes in safety systems and advanced flexible structures for the global aerospace and defense markets. (Post)

There won’t be a lot of jobs associated with the office, seven initially and perhaps twice that as it gears up. But since this region is making a push for more aerospace, any new operation is important and sends a message.

Three airports in Northwest Florida had increases in their passenger counts in January 2015 compared to January 2014. The newly renamed Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport at Eglin Air Force Base had an 8.56 percent increase. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City had a 5.83 percent increase and Pensacola International Airport had an increase of 4.5 percent. (Post)

Meanwhile, agreements were finalized for United Airlines and Silver Airways to begin service at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. United Express started daily service to Houston. Silver Airways is set to kick off service to Orlando and Tampa March 19. (Post)

The F-35 Joint Program Office has asked Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to start an initial low-rate production of a new Hand-held Imaging Tool (HIT) that will be able to check the surface of a plane to check its health.

The Air Force currently uses a 1,200-pound piece of equipment and needs two operators and three hours. But AFRL through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) developed HIT. It's a portable, non-destructive method to inspect an aircraft. It consists of a handheld unit weighing less than seven pounds and an 11-pound backpack that can image 100 percent of an aircraft's surface in 15 minutes.

The test and demonstration was done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in late 2014 and led to the culmination of a five-year research effort. So expect to see that device there, since it's home of the F-35 Integrated Training Center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded an $8.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the procurement and delivery of electronic components to support low-rate initial production Lot VII F-35 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and international partners. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in March 2016.

This contract combines purchases for the Air Force (59.4 percent), Navy (18.7 percent), Marine Corps (12.5 percent), and international partners (9.4 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for retrofit modifications to the F-135 propulsion system, including production thrust recovery and integrated power package manifold. Work will be performed in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is expected to be completed in December 2016.

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Air Force (50 percent); the U.S. Navy (49 percent); and the international partners (1 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. The F135 is used in the F-35. (Post)

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Hurst, Texas, was awarded an $8.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for delivery of one Bell 407 Analog Helicopter, and preservation and storage of seven aircraft in support of the endurance upgrade of the MQ-8C Fire Scout. Work will be performed in Ozark, Ala., and is expected to be completed in September 2015. Final assembly of Fire Scouts is done at Moss Point, Miss. … L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded an $8.8 million modification for F-16 aircraft maintenance for Taiwan. Work will be performed at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and is expected to be complete by Feb. 29, 2016.

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