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.

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