Saturday, June 27, 2015

Week in review (6/21 to 6/27)

The delivery of major sections for the first U.S.-built Airbus jetliner, a key rocket engine test and cuts to some aviation-related projects were among the stories of interested to the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor during the week.

Here's your week in review:

Those major jetliner sections that will be assembled into the first U.S.-built Airbus jet are now at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. They were moved last Sunday from the Port of Mobile to the plant in a Mardi Gras-style parade. Thousands of onlookers lined the streets to watch as the parts were trucked to the facility. The first plane will be delivered to JetBlue next year. (Post)

Airbus sees the Mobile plant as key in helping it reduce the backlog of orders to the popular A320 family of jetliners. The Mobile plant will build the A319, A320 and A321. Three other plants, one in Germany, one in France and one in China, also build the A320 family of planes.

Because of the possibility that the monthly production schedule will be increased because of demand, there's also the possibility that an additional assembly line will be established in Germany at the current Hamburg plant.

The Mobile complex, by the way, has room to grow.

While a lot of the focus in  this region has been on Mobile, to the west at Stennis Space Center, Miss., tests are continuing on the rocket engine that will help power U.S. astronauts deeper into space than ever before. The RS-25 developmental engine had a 650-second test firing during the week at the NASA facility. It was the longest firing to date of the engine, the fourth in the current series of tests.

Four RS-25 engines, modified versions of the engines that powered the space shuttle fleet, will power the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System. The launch vehicle, the most powerful ever, will boost the Orion crew vehicle that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

The main goal of the series of tests is to see how the engine performs under simulated temperature, pressure and other changes required by the SLS design, and to develop a new controller, or "brain," for the engine. The first test of the current series was in January, and three more tests are scheduled for July and August. (Post)

The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in the SLS. In addition to the testing at SSC, the core stage is being built by Boeing at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and the Orion is being built by Lockheed Martin, also at Michoud.

Northwest Florida got some unwelcome news during the week when Florida Gov. Rick Scott cut three of Northwest Florida's aviation-related projects from the state budget. He used his line-item veto to cut $461.4 million from the $78 billion budget for projects across the state.

The cuts included $3 million for Pensacola International Airport to complete the purchase of parcels needed for the Airport Commerce Park, $1.5 million for development of Whiting Aviation Park in Milton and $1 million for expansion of the National Flight Academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Post)

In all three of those cases, alternative sources of funding will be pursued.

The F/A-18s of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team have been repaired following two incident of parts falling off wings on two separate occasions. The first incident was at the May 23 air show in Rochester, N.Y., when the upper leading edge flap on the right wing fell off during a practice.

The second incident was June 6 in Rockford, Ill., when the part that moves the leading edge up or down was lost on the left wing. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

Speaking of the Blue Angels, former lead pilot Capt. Greg McWherter retired Saturday during a ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola. McWherter commanded the Blue Angels for four years, ending in 2012. McWherter, a popular Blue Angels leader, was found guilty of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice for allegedly allowing sexual harassment while in charge of the team. (Story)

-- A Navy TH-57 helicopter assigned to Training Air Wing 5 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., made a hard landing during the week at Navy Outlying Landing Field Santa Rosa near Milton. The two pilots were able to exit the helicopter on their own. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $237.8 million for delivery order 0031 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for initial spares in support of low-rate initial production Lot 9 F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, non-U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) participants and Foreign Military Sales customers. Spares to be procured include F-35 common spares; F-35A, B, and C variant unique spares; and aloft spares packages and deployment spare packages. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Multiple companies, including RMS, Panama City, Fla., were awarded a combined $5 billion contract. The contractors will provide a full range of base life and operating support and logistical support on an as-required basis to support all programs with disciplines consistent with the AFCAP description of services. Work will be performed at locations worldwide determined by individual needs effective Oct. 1, 2015, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2021. The 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … SURVICE Engineering, Belcamp, Md., was awarded a $7.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for SEEK EAGLE modeling, analysis, and tools support. The modification is to increase the ceiling price of the basic contract in order to award Task Order 0011. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Dec. 22, 2015. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Week in review (6/14 to 6/20)

This past week will go down as one of the most historic for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor. A shipment from Europe carrying major sections for the first U.S.-built Airbus jetliner arrived in Mobile, Ala., late in the week.

On Sunday a Mardi Gras-style parade will be held as the sections that have been placed on trucks are brought to the Airbus manufacturing complex at the Mobile Aeroplex. Airbus is planning to inaugurate the new plant in an opening ceremony Sept. 14, according to Flightglobal.

That first plane, an A321 for customer JetBlue, will take far longer to build than any other passenger jet that will eventually come out of the Airbus final assembly line, which is now called the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility.

The cargo ship, BBC Fuji, left Hamburg May 29 and arrived in Mobile Wednesday evening. The components have been stored at the APM Terminal along the Mobile River since the ship’s arrival until the Sunday parade. (Post)

As if to underscore the need for the Mobile plant, Airbus during the Paris Air Show won $57 billion worth of business for a total of 421 aircraft, a figure that includes firm orders and commitments. The A320 family got 103 firm orders and 263 commitments worth $41.4 billion. Of these, 323 are the new engine option, taking total orders and commitments for the A320neo family beyond 4,000 since launch in December 2010. The plant in Mobile will build A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. (Post)

Among those orders, Korean Air signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus to buy up to 50 A321neo aircraft. It’s a new customer for the single aisle A320 family. The agreement, covering 30 aircraft plus 20 options, was announced at the Paris Air Show. (Post)

By the way, if you think the Mobile plant is the final word in A320 final assembly lines, think again. Hamburg's Finkenwerder plant is the most likely location for a new assembly line if Airbus opts to raise monthly production rates beyond its commitment of 50, according to Flightglobal.

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier, speaking during the Paris Air Show, said the company would take a decision on an increase this year but reiterated the need to ensure the supply chain could cope. He said that at higher rates, the company would need another final assembly line, adding "Probably we'd put it in Hamburg." (Story)

Meanwhile, the Mobile Airport Authority announced during the week that MAAS Aviation will build a $39 million twin-bay paint facility at Mobile Aeroplex that will create 80 jobs and focus on the commercial maintenance, repair and overhaul market in the Americas.

The new facility will be in addition to the soon-to-be completed facility at the Airbus manufacturing plant that will handle the jetliners made at the Mobile manufacturing facility. Ireland-based MAAS also operates paint shops in Hamburg, Germany, and the Netherlands. (Post)

The Mobile Airport Authority also said during the week that Safran company Messier-Bugatti-Dowty will set up shop at the Mobile Aeroplex. The company provides aircraft landing and braking systems and will open an office and workshop at the Aeroplex at the end of the month. A Safran building at the Aeroplex slated to open in the next few years eventually will house Messier-Bugatti-Dowty and several sister companies. (Post)

In addition to those operations, Hutchinson of France announced on the first day of the Paris air show that it will open an operation in Mobile that will create about 100 jobs over the next three years. Hutchinson provides vibration control systems, fluid management systems, and sealing solution technologies. The Hutchinson center of excellence will service the region’s aerospace industry, including the Airbus final assembly. (Post)

-- Birmingham may or may not be the site of an airline aviation industry conference this fall. Mayor William Bell told during the week that the city was selected for a conference of Airbus suppliers. But a Mobile television station and then the Mobile newspaper reported that Airbus denied it had any such plans and wasn’t officially participating in organizing a Birmingham conference. (Post)

As they say, stay tuned.

This item may have been lost in all the hoopla over Airbus, but it’s significant for the continued growth of the Gulf Coast Aerospace region.

Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss., signed an agreement for test services and test stand support of the AR1 multi-element pre-burner and main injector. Currently in development, the AR1 engine is a replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engines that power the Atlas V launch vehicle.

This agreement builds on the current assembly and testing of the company's RS-68 and RS-25 engines at NASA Stennis. Under the agreement, the company will pay NASA Stennis to modify the E-1 complex, cell 1 test stand over a period of six months. The test stand will be configured to conduct AR1 staged combustion testing. (Post)

High-flying balloons that promise to one-day bring affordable internet to those with no access are being tested at McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., according to several press reports.

Two years ago Google launched 30 balloons into the stratosphere from New Zealand in Project Loon. They traveled twice around the world more than 15 miles up. Balloons were inflated to 49 feet in diameter and are being subjected to extreme temperatures at McKinley. The balloons have stayed aloft so long because they have managed to reduce leaks. The tests are McKinley are designed to engineers can get an up-close look at how the balloons behave in extreme cold. (Post)

-- Raytheon and the Army successfully completed a series of TALON Laser Guided Rocket shots during recent tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Firing 25 rockets from both Apache D and E models, the series will help define the Army's small guided munitions requirement and acquisition strategy while also developing combat tactics, techniques and procedures for use with guided Hydra-70 rockets. (Post)

-- In two separate change of command ceremonies during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Col. Adrian Spain took over as commander of the 53rd Wing Thursday and Col. Lansing Pilch assumed command off the 33rd Wing from Col. Todd Canterbury. (Post)

Lagan Construction LLC, Woodbridge, Va., was awarded a $14.5 million contract for repairs to South Field runways 5/23 and 14/32 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. Work will be completed by June 2016. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla. is the contracting activity. … Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded a $38.8 million contract modification for procurement of critical parts and associated support for two CH-53K system demonstration test article aircraft. Work will be performed at multiple sites, including 2 percent in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and 2 percent in Jackson, Miss. Work is expected to be completed in December 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $68.6 million modification to previously awarded contract for increased F-22 flying hours in 2015. Work will be performed at Fort Worth and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2015. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is home to F-22 training and an operational squadron.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week in review (6/7 to 6/13)

A rocket engine test at Stennis Space Center; an announced expansion of an aerospace company in Mobile; a planned Mardi Gras-type welcome for aircraft components arriving in Mobile; and a Pensacola institute's outstanding showing in a robotics competition were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

Here's your week in review:

At Stennis Space Center, Miss., an RS-25 engine fired up for 500 seconds during the week in the third test of the engines that will power the Space Launch System. The test was on the A-1 test stand, and four more tests are planned for the developmental engine. A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power SLS, the NASA rocket that will take astronauts further into space than ever before. (Post)

Economic development
In Mobile, Ala., Star Aviation announced it will expand its facility at the Mobile Aeroplex and hire between 20 and 50 additional employees over the next two years. The company expects to break ground in the next few weeks on a new 24,000-square-foot facility, adjacent to the company’s principal office. The company currently employs 85 workers in Mobile and 45 in Seattle. The privately held company specializes in aircraft aftermarket systems. (Post)

There will be a Mardi Gras-style event when the first components for the very first U.S.-built Airbus jetliner are brought from the port to the Airbus assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex. The four-mile parade from the port to the Aeroplex is scheduled for June 21. The components, including fuselage, wings and more, left Hamburg, Germany, May 29. (Post)

-- France's Safran said on Thursday it's focusing on meeting a steep ramp-up in jet engine production before deciding whether to stretch its already record commitments further. Both Airbus and Boeing have plans with engine makers to raise production of their most popular models by some 20 percent to 50-52 planes a month by 2017-2018. Airbus recently said it's considering pushing that figure even higher, to as many as 63 planes a month. The new A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala., will play a role in reducing the backlog. Safran also has an engineering operation in Mobile. (Post)

A team from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) finished second in the DARPA Robotics Challenge held in Pomona, Calif., last weekend. IHMC won the $1 million prize for the second-place finish. "Running Man" from IHMC was the top team from the United States. The competition was designed to spur the development of robots that could perform human-like challenges, including driving a vehicle, cutting a hole in a wall and overcoming obstacles. (Post)

Air Force Col. Christopher P. Azzano, who became commander of the 96th Test Wing at
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., last week, has been nominated to the rank of brigadier general. The nomination was announced today by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Azzano took over the 96th at a change of command ceremony June 4. (Post)

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded two contracts for the Small Diameter Bomb II. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity for both. One is a $31 million contract to exercise an option to previously awarded contract FA8672-10-C-0002 for Small Diameter Bomb II. The contractor will provide low-rate initial production for 144 SDB II Lot 1 munitions, 156 SDB II Lot 1 single weapon containers, eight SDB II weapon load crew trainers and conventional munitions maintenance trainers, four SDB II Lot 1 practical explosive ordnance disposal system trainers, and data. In the other contract, Raytheon was awarded a $10.6 million contract to provide Small Diameter Bomb II aircraft integration test assets, to include jettison test vehicles, and instrumented measurement vehicles on the F/A-18E/F aircraft. … NASA awarded a contract to Computer Sciences Corporation, Huntsville, Ala., to provide business, administrative and technical support services to the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The contract will be administered at the NSSC, which performs select business activities for all NASA centers.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Week in review (5/31 to 6/6)

A nearly $1 billion order for F-35 aircraft, a report about the cause of an F-35 fire a year ago, a separate report about the cause of a fatal helicopter crash, a change of command at Eglin Air Force Base and an order for Airbus A320s were some of the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace region during the week.

But before we get to the week in review, I'll address a couple of housekeeping items.

First, as many of you know, we don't publish our bi-monthly aerospace newsletter during the month when we publish our annual book. That happened Monday. But we decided that it makes sense to publish a newsletter after all, but use it to summarizing the book chapters. We figured that's perfect for folks who simply don't have the time or inclination to sift through the book.

If you're on our newsletter subscriber list, you’ll get the summary newsletter Tuesday.

Second, there was a story during the week that some media outlets reported that you didn't see in the Gulf Coast aerospace daily news feed – and never will. All I'll say is it involved the fight against ISIS.

It's our policy not to publish anything that may jeopardize our troops or provide information that an enemy might use to its advantage. Sure, the information is easy to find elsewhere, but you won't find it here.

We still practice traditional journalism at Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, and that calls for us to be gatekeepers. Part of that is to consider the consequences of what we publish. And if it's something that might help those who wish to destroy us, we won't use it. That will always be the case for us.

Now for your week in review:

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $920.4 million advance acquisition contract for 94 F-35 low rate initial production aircraft. The contract provides for 78 F-35A aircraft: 44 for the Air Force, 2 each for Italy and Turkey, 8 for Australia, 6 for Norway and 16 for various foreign military sales customers.

It also provides for the procurement of 14 F-35B aircraft: 9 for the Marine Corps, 3 for Britain and 2 for Italy, as well as 2 F-35C aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps. Work will be performed in Texas, California, the United Kingdom, Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland and Italy and is expected to be completed in May 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and mission data repramming office. (Post)

-- Last year's fire that destroyed an F-35A at Eglin AFB and grounded the fleet of the fifth generation fighter for nearly a month was caused by "catastrophic engine failure," according to an Air Force investigation released at the end of the week.

The fire occurred June 23 as the pilot was beginning to take off. Investigators say it was caused by a fractured engine rotor. In addition to the grounding, the F-35 was also prohibited from flying to the Farnborough International Airshow in England. The problem has since been fixed by engine-maker Pratt and Whitney. (Post)

In a separate accident report for another aircraft, this one fatal, investigators say "spatial disorientation" caused a Louisiana National Guard UH-60 helicopters to crash in the water near Navarre, Fla., March 10. Spatial disorientation happens when a person's sense of where he or she is relative to surroundings is lost due to fog or other conditions. The helicopter crash killed seven Marines and four National Guardsmen. Another helicopter that was training at the time returned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., because of the conditions. (Post)

The 96th Test Wing at Eglin AFB held a change of command ceremony Thursday. Col. Christopher Azzano assumed command of the wing from Brig. Gen. David Harris. Azzano was the commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Harris received his second star prior to the ceremony. He becomes the Air Force Test Center commander at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Post)

Frontier Airlines placed a firm order for 10 A321 and two A320 aircraft with the current engine option. This is the second time in less than a year that the Denver-based airline has ordered the A321. Including this order, Frontier has a backlog of 101 Airbus single-aisle aircraft. The company’s current in-service fleet consists of 34 A319s and 21 A320s. A new A320 family assembly line is opening in Mobile, Ala., this summer. It will be the fourth A320 assembly line operated by Airbus. (Post)

CAE USA Inc., Tampa, Fla., was awarded a $29.3 million contract that is zero-funded subject to availability of funds in accordance with federal acquisition regulation 52.232-18 as long-lead time is required for preparation to perform by the contractor. This contract is for fixed-wing flight training services. The contractor must have the plane for single-engine and upset-recovery training, flight simulators, hangar space and training space within a 50-mile radius of Fort Rucker, Ala., in order to perform the training services. Work will be performed in Fort Rucker, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2023. Army Contracting Command, Fort Eustis, Va., is the contracting activity.