Saturday, April 18, 2015

Week in review (4/12 to 4/18)

An Air Force decision to keep C-130Js at Keesler; new flights between New Orleans and Pensacola; more responsibilities for Airbus Military in Mobile; kudos for the larger version of the Fire Scout; the first-ever aerial refueling of the X-47B drone; and a decision by a union to delay a vote in South Carolina were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

Here's the week in review:

The Air Force has abandoned plans to transfer C-130Js from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and deactivate the 815th Tactical Airlift Squadron. That's according to a release from Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.

Palazzo said that since he first learned of the plan three years ago to move the 10 C-130Js, he has worked with Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., to ensure that would not happen. He said in the release that the Air Force "made the right decision" to keep the C-130Js at Keesler. (Post)

-- Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced that Silver Airways will begin daily service between Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) starting on June 16, 2015.

With the addition of the New Orleans service, Pensacola International Airport will offer non-stop service to 13 destinations. New Orleans becomes the fourth destination served by Silver from PNS, which also flies non-stop from Pensacola to Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville, with connecting service to Fort Lauderdale. (Post)

Airbus Defense and Space selected Airbus DS Military Aircraft Inc. at Mobile Regional Airport as the new worldwide support center for the C212 aircraft series, which is a pretty big deal for the Airbus operation that doesn't get nearly as much publicity as the still-being-built assembly line.

The C212 transport aircraft was designed to operate in austere environments for extended periods of time, without the need for ground support equipment. It is able to carry up to 25 people or a 6,200 pound payload. With a large customer base both in military and civil operations, North and South America are collectively home to the largest C212 fleet in the world.

The 50-worker Mobile operation, now in its 10th year, provides operators of the C212 and CN235 tactical transports with the capabilities of a certified FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency repair station. Last year, the company opened a new 7,500-square-foot component repair facility, expanding on its 30,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) delivery center. (Post)

One interesting development in the region during the week was the announcement by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola that associate director John "Row" Rogacki will become deputy director of the Doolittle Institute of Fort Walton Beach.

The Doolittle Institute is a not-for-profit organization that was established to support the Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, in part by facilitating transfer of technology to and from the private sector.

The news release said Rogacki would continue working with IHMC in his new capacity at the Doolittle Institute. "The arrangement between IHMC and the Doolittle Institute allows us to form a mutually beneficial relationship for collaborations in research programs related to science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine," Rogacki said. "It really builds upon the strengths of both organizations.” (Post)

But the collaboration is likely to be even bigger than that. Back in October we had a story in the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League Aerospace Newsletter about the Doolittle Institute, and one of the things that Director Steve Butler said is that the institute, originally located at the University of Florida Research and Education Facility right outside Eglin, would maintain strong ties to REEF even though it moved to a new, more heavily trafficked location in Fort Walton Beach.

Rogacki, in fact, may be the perfect person to maintain those strong ties. He headed up REEF before he joined IHMC in 2010 and went to the IHMC operation in Ocala. The combined brainpower of IHMC, REEF and the Doolittle Institute might make for some interesting research.

As they say, stay tuned.

There will be no union vote at the Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C., next week afterall. The International Association of Machinists withdrew its petition to for an April 22 vote to see if workers are interested in having a union at the North Charleston facilities. The union will not be able to file for a new election for at least six months. (Post)

The union activity in South Carolina is being closely watched in this region. The machinists have already said they are interested in representing workers at the Airbus plant that will open this year in Mobile.

-- DynCorp International has been recognized as a top veteran employer by Military Times for the fourth year in a row. Jim Geisler, DynCorp International chief executive officer, said some 70 percent of the company's workers are former military. Companies from across the U.S. were invited to complete survey about their efforts to recruit employees connected to the military, their company policies related to veterans, reservists and their families and the organization's culture. DynCorp International has employees in the Pensacola metro area. (Post)

NASA has selected 149 research and technology proposals from American small businesses and research institutions that will enable NASA's future missions into the solar system and beyond while benefiting America's technology-driven economy.

The selected aerospace technology and innovation projects have a total value of some $118.1 million, supporting 117 U.S. firms and research institutions in 26 states. Five selected proposals involve technology being administered by the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA's Stennis Space Center. (Post)

-- A technology company founded in South Mississippi to help coordinate resources and teams after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 now is the exclusive partner to provide technical support for all Google Geo Products, including Google Maps Engine, Google Maps API and Google Earth Enterprise.

Navigas, started at Stennis Space Center, is now headquartered in San Francisco. Its home office is in Jackson, Miss.

Craig Harvey, president of the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions, a cluster of geospatial industries, universities and state and federal agencies along the northern Gulf Coast, said Navagis exemplifies the goals of the EIGS cluster. (Post)

The larger version of the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has completed 297 test sorties and is scheduled to begin initial operational testing and evaluation in 2016, the Navy program manager said.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout is larger and faster and can fly longer than the MQ-8B and will reduce the burden of manned aircraft, Capt. Jeff Dodge told a briefing at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Maryland. He told Seapower after the briefing that for the Navy, it’s a great fit.

The Navy has 23 MQ-8Bs and 19 MQ-8Cs, with five more C models that will be put on the contract this year, said Dodge. Long-term production plans are for two air vehicles per year between fiscal 2016 and 2023 for a total of 40 MQ-8Cs.

Final assembly on both variants of the Fire Scout is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Meanwhile, another Northrop Grumman unmanned aerial vehicle, the X-47B carrier drone, had a first-ever aerial refueling off the coast of Maryland during the week. The aircraft’s refueling probe plugged into the hose of a KC-707 tanker. The X-47B used optical sensors and a camera to monitor its approach.

Although none of the X-47B is built in the Gulf Coast region, this is of high interest because naval aviators receive initial training in Florida’s Pensacola and Milton. (Post)

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $1.54 million civil penalty against Air Methods Corp. of Englewood, Colo., for allegedly operating Eurocopter EC-130 helicopters on dozens of flights around Pensacola, Fla., when they were not in compliance with FAA regulations.

The FAA alleges Air Methods operated two helicopters on 70 passenger-carrying flights over water and beyond power-off gliding distance from shore, when they lacked required helicopter flotation devices and flotation gear for each occupant. The agency alleges the company operated another helicopter on 13 such flights when it lacked required flotation gear for each occupant. All 83 flights by the emergency medical transport company occurred around Pensacola.

Air Methods acquired the four bases of Baptist LifeFlight, owned by Baptist Health Care of Pensacola, in June 2014. (Post)

NASA awarded a contract to The MathWorks Inc., of Natick, Mass., to provide new software licenses, maintenance and product training for mathematical computing software to be used by NASA engineers and scientists. The MathWorks contract consists of a one-year base period and four one-year options. The period of performance will begin May 1 with a potential end date of April 30, 2020, and total value of $30 million. The contract will be administered by the Enterprise License Management Team at the NASA Shared Services Center, Stennis Space Center, Miss. … Applied Research Associates Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., was awarded an $11.7 million DoD contract for airfield operating surfaces and airfield damage repair technology development. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 14, 2020. The 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Geocent LLC, Metairie, La., was awarded a $10.1 million multiple award DoD contract for software and systems engineering, development and support services to assist in the delivery and maintenance of business applications, systems, and enabling technologies. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (90 percent); and Metairie (10 percent), and work is expected to be completed April 15, 2018. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $9.9 million modification to a previously awarded DoD contract for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) production lots 28 and 29. This modification provides for the purchase of an additional 24 Captive Air Training Missile AIM-120D guidance section spares. Work will be performed at Tucson and is expected to be complete by March 31, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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