Gunship conversion work, a forecast about the growing need for aircraft maintenance technicians, the departure of the last QF-4 from Tyndall, and the establishment of a machinist union office in Mobile were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast I-10 region during the week.
Here's your week in review:
Lockheed Martin will perform a series of modifications to an MC-130J to convert it to an AC-130J. The work, which will cost around $20 million, will be done at Bob Sikes Airport near Crestview. Right now, two aircraft are scheduled to be converted, but the Air Force Special Operations Command plans to modify 33 of in the coming years.
The AC-130J is designed to provide close air support for ground troops and air interdiction roles such as strike coordination and reconnaissance. It’s being developed to replace the AC-130H, AC-130U and AC-130W gunships. (Post)
While on the subject of Lockheed Martin, that company is buying Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies for $9 billion. Lockheed Martin, already the largest military contractor, builds the F-35 and other military aircraft. This will also give the company the Black Hawk helicopter. It's Lockheed Martin's largest acquisition since it bought Martin Marietta Corp two decades ago. (Post).
All three companies have operations in the Gulf Coast region. Lockheed Martin has space-related activities at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss. It also has an operation in Fort Walton Beach that works, among other things, with the F-35. United Technologies has an operation in Foley, Ala., and Sikorsky has been involved in aircraft maintenance activities in Milton and Pensacola, Fla.
Boeing released a new forecast showing continued strong demand for commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians as the world's airlines add 38,000 airplanes to the global fleet over the next 20 years. Boeing's 2015 Pilot and Technician Outlook projects that between 2015 and 2034 the world will require 558,000 new commercial airline pilots and 609,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians. (Post)
Speaking of workers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has opened an organizing office in Mobile for Airbus workers interested in forming a union at the company's assembly line.
The office will be staffed by full-time IAM organizers and supported by community allies and volunteers from IAM and AFL-CIO-affiliated unions in the Mobile and Gulf Coast area.
The $600 million A320 assembly line will employ about 1,000 workers and produce four to five passenger jets each month when in fully operational. The first plane, an A321, will be delivered to JetBlue in 2016. (Post)
The last QF-4 from the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron left Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base Friday. It's now at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., where it will remain for its final missions. The F-4 originally was used as a fighter during the Vietnam War, but it began serving Tyndall as a QF-4 aerial target in 1997. The departure of the QF-4 marks the full transition for the 82nd ATS to the QF-16, which, like the QF-4, can be flown manned or unmanned. (Post)
-- In Okaloosa County, county commissioners agreed to ask the Air Force to grant the county ownership of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport property, which is located within Eglin Air Force Base. The county said it can no longer afford the $400,000 lease payment it makes to Eglin each year and still hold on to its three major airline carriers, United, American and Delta.
County Airports Director Sunil Harman said owning the airport land would allow the county to develop new streams of revenue such as hotels, gas stations and convenience stores. (Story)
-- Navy Cmdr. Abaxes Williams, a pilot with the Navy Reserve’s Strike Fighter Squadron 204, was awarded the Air Medal earlier this month for an incident that occurred last year over the Gulf of Mexico. He was flying an F/A-18s out of Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base when it was hit by lightning at 23,000 feet. He struggled for 25 minutes to wear off the effect and control the fighter until he could return to the Belle Chasse base. (Post)
PAE Aviation and Technical Services LLC, Marlton, N.J., was awarded an $115.9 million contract for aerial targets operations and maintenance services. Work will be performed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2022. Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., is the contracting activity.