Saturday, August 29, 2015

Week in review (8/23 to 8/29)

It was a busy week for Stennis Space Center, Miss., and the Space Launch System program designed to send astronauts further into space than ever before.

Former Space Shuttle Main Engine 0525, a developmental engine that's never been in space, completed its seventh static fire during the week at SSC. Now it's time for the Aerojet Rocketdyne flight engine 2059 to be put on the A-1 Test Stand for the next test series into next year.

NASA's Space Launch System will make its first flight in 2018. (Post)

Meanwhile, work has been completed at SSC on a steel tower for tests of the SLS, the world’s most powerful rocket. An additional 1 million pounds of structural steel was put on the B-2 test stand.

The addition of the structural framework is needed to support the height and weight of the massive rocket’s core stage. NASA has been renovating the B-2 Test Stand for more than two years in preparation for the SLS test series.

The historic test stand was built in the 1960s and previously used to test both the Saturn V and the space shuttle propulsion system. (Post)

In another space item during the week, NASA officials held a networking event in New Orleans for small businesses interested in doing business with the federal space agency or its contractors. The event drew about 100 people. (Post)

GKN Aerospace executive Daryl Taylor was chosen to head the Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. Taylor will oversee all systems and support staff at the Mobile facility, reporting directly to Airbus Americas president Barry Eccleston.

Taylor, who has been VP and GM of GKN Aerospace facilities in Kansas and California, previously worked for Bombardier. He'll train for his new role at Airbus facilities in Europe before assuming leadership in Mobile in coming months. (Post)

Military aircraft
Four F-22 Raptors and about 60 airmen from the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., are now at Germany's Spangdahlem Air Base to train with allied air forces and U.S. services through mid-September.

It's the first-ever F-22 training deployment to Europe. The training will prove that 5th generation fighters can deploy successfully to European bases and other NATO installations while also affording the chance for familiarization flight training within the European theater. (Post)

On the unmanned front, endurance capabilities of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter were demonstrated on the West Coast on a planned 10-plus hour flight and range out to 150 nautical miles flight from Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, Calif.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout achieved 11 hours with over an hour of fuel in reserve. The long range, long endurance flight was part of a series of capability based tests used by the Navy to validate their concept of operations and previously tested performance parameters.

The MQ-8C is built in part in Moss Point, Miss. It's a larger version of the MQ-8B, also built in part in Moss Point. (Post)

Economic development
The Bell Helicopter Lafayette Assembly Center officially opened for business during the week in Louisiana. The company will assemble the new commercial helicopter, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X at the facility some 135 miles west of New Orleans.

Bell Helicopter, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, broke ground on the 82,300 square-foot helicopter assembly plant in August 2014 at the Lafayette Regional Airport. (Post)

Meanwhile, the Marianna/Jackson County Distribution/Construction Services Park has become the second certified site in Jackson County, Fla., through Gulf Power's Florida First Sites program.

The combined industrial park is 460 acres and is home to Family Dollar Distribution Center, Arizona Chemical and Hanson Precast Concrete. It is adjacent to Interstate 10 with 213 developable acres available.

Florida First Sites was created in 2013 to help communities prepare locations to attract new industries and new jobs to the region. Seven other Northwest Florida sites that have obtained certification include one more in Jackson County, two in Bay and Santa Rosa counties and one each in Okaloosa and Walton counties. (Post)

Over in Mississippi, a hangar at Mississippi’s Gulfport International Airport that was used during World War II is receiving a $2 million-plus facelift that will allow it to be used by the Air National Guard's Combat Readiness Training Center.

Built in 1944, the hangar was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Airport Executive Director Clay Williams said construction will start in a few weeks and it should be completed in April. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded an $89.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract that provides for the system development and demonstration Phase I Increment 2, for the first aircraft arrival and initial operations in support of the F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) air system for the government of Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lakeview Center Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was awarded a $7.7 million contract for dining facility attendants and contingency cook support at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., with an estimated completion date of May 31, 2020.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Week in review (8/16 to 8/22)

The Pegasus barge, which was used to transport Space Shuttle External Tanks from Louisiana to Florida, has been refitted in Louisiana for its new role in NASA's Space Launch System program.

The barge will be used to transport the 213-foot core stage of the SLS rocket from its production facility at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans various NASA centers, including Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Pegasus was last used to transport ground support equipment from the Space Shuttle program from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to Stennis Space Center. From 2011 to 2014 it was mothballed at SSC while work continued on the new SLS program.

Because the SLS is larger, NASA contracted with Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, La., to beef up Pegasus so it could be used for its new task. For a complete story on this $8.5 million refurbishing, read the item in NASA Spaceflight.

Lockheed Martin Aerospace has contracted with Cubic Global Defense to produce and enhance the Air Combat Training System in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Work includes the addition of an internally mounted subsystem of the P5 Combat Training System, or P5CTS, that enables the F-35 to maintain its stealth characteristics while training.

The P5 training system is an encrypted system interoperable with the P5CTS/Tactical Combat Training System used by the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, Navy, Marines and international partners. The training systems are used throughout the Gulf Coast region. (Post)

India's largest domestic airline by market share, IndiGo, firmed up last year's commitment and ordered 250 A320neo family aircraft. With this order the A320neo order backlog is now over 4,100 aircraft.

That just underscores why Airbus opted to build another A320 assembly line. The new $600 million manufacturing plant in  plant in Mobile, Ala., will help Airbus fill its huge list of orders for the popular aircraft. The plant has its official opening Sept. 14. (Post)

The Mobile Regional Airport's concourse has been named in honor of Matthew S. "Matt" Metcalfe, who served for 35 years at the Mobile Airport Authority. Metcalfe, who retired in 2014 from MAA, now serves as director emeritus.

Among other things, Metcalfe played key roles in developing the Mobile Regional Airport and with the redevelopment of the former U.S. Air Force Base at Brookley Field in downtown Mobile into a general aviation facility and industrial park. (Post)

The Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape aircrew program at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., was inactivated during the week and will be consolidated with water survival at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

The 66th Training Squadron's Detachment 2 was inactivated in a ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum. The survival school has prepared aircrews from the Air Force, Army, Navy and NASA with training on how to prepare for survival after bailing out of an aircraft. (Post)

Potomac River Group LLC, Ashburn, Va., was awarded a $35.3 million contract to obtain certified contractor support to administer polygraph examinations for Naval Criminal Investigative Service counterintelligence scope polygraph examinations in support of the Navy Insider Threat program. Eleven percent of the work will be done in Pensacola, Fla. Work also will be done in Washington, D.C., California, Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland and Texas. … General Dynamics of Niceville, Fla., was among a host of companies awarded a ceiling $490 million contract for the Agile Acquisition program. Contractors will provide for pre-program activities, technology development activities, engineering and manufacturing activities, and production activities for development of new systems or modification of existing systems. The location of performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, Rapid Acquisition Cell, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Inc., Bethesda, Md., was awarded an $82.8 million contract for next generation technical services. Work will be performed at Stennis Space Center, Miss., Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Vicksburg, Miss.; Lorton, Va.; and Bethesda with an estimated completion date of June 19, 2016. … Roy Anderson Corp., Gulfport, Miss., was awarded a $38.3 million contract for construction of the Bolden Elementary-Middle School at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., and is expected to be completed by June 2018.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Week in review (8/9 to 8/15)

A new rocket engine test, a new deputy director at a NASA facility and the introduction of the latest version of an F-35 helmet were among the items of interest during the week for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

Here's your week in review:

An RS-25 rocket engine had a 535-second test firing late in the week at NASA's South Mississippi rocket engine test facility. More than 1,200 people viewed the test at Stennis Space Center, according to a release by NASA.

One final test of this RS-25 developmental engine is planned in this series. Testing of the flight engines begins later this fall.

Four RS-25 engines along with boosters will power the first stage of NASA's Space Launch System, which will lift the Orion crew vehicle and astronauts on deep space missions in the future. The RS-25 is a modified version of the engines that powered the Space Shuttle. (Post)

If you are a regular reader of this column or the daily Gulf Coast news feed, you understand the significance of the SLS program for this region. The core stage and Orion capsule are fabricated in part at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. And the rocket engines are tested at SSC. It's a continuation of the roles the two facilities had since the start of the nation's space program in the 1960s.

Also at Stennis Space Center during the week, Randy Galloway was named deputy director, succeeding Jerry Cook, who will return to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Galloway has served at several other NASA centers in key leadership roles.

In his previous position, Galloway was director of the Engineering and Test Directorate at SSC beginning in 2007. His successor there is John Bailey. Cook will serve in Huntsville as the Exploration Systems Development chief engineer and director of Cross-Program Systems Integration. (Post)

A new high-tech helmet for F-35 pilots is ready now. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, officials during the week commemorated the delivery of the first Gen III F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS).

Rockwell Collins, through its joint venture, Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems LLC, is providing the HMDS, which includes an improved night vision camera, improved liquid-crystal displays, automated alignment and software improvements is to be introduced to the fleet in low rate initial production Lot 7 in 2016.

The company also developed the Gen 2 helmet currently in use. Overall, Rockwell Collins has built and fit more than 200 helmets for F-35 pilots. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming lab. (Post)

SA Technical Services Inc., Niceville, Fla., Advanced Concepts Enterprises Inc., Shalimar, Fla., and Streamline Defense LLC, Tampa, Fla., were awarded a combined $45 million multiple-award contract for Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command. The contractor will provide systems engineering and technical assistance services at multiple locations both in the U.S. and overseas, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 11, 2020. Air Force Installation Contracting Agency and 765 Special Contracting Flight, Hurlburt Field, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $26 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the F-22 sustainment system. Work will be performed at Fort Worth and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity. F-22 pilots are trained at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Week in review (8/2 to 8/8)

I usually avoid writing about subjects that are not aerospace-related. Afterall, people read this column because it focuses on aerospace issues of interest to the Gulf Coast region. But there was a story this week that shows you just what can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.

The story was by a reporter from the Washington Post, which has been following the training of two women who have made it to Ranger swamp training at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base. The reporter wrote about one of the instructors at the Ranger swamp school, Timothy Spayd.

Spayd at 53 is about twice the age of the other 6th Ranger Training Battalion instructors. He's a former active-duty Army sergeant who in 1980 graduated from Ranger School. He was adopted, so to speak, by the 6th RTB after the unit found that Spayd had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

A neurodegenerative disease, ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, affecting voluntary muscle action. Eventually, it can leave people unable to speak or walk. Spayd, of Milton, and his wife, Karen, began wondering about his health years ago. He'd lost 26 pounds and had significant pain in his back and spine. A VA doctor finally gave him the diagnosis of ALS.

A friend and fellow Ranger School graduate reached out on Spayd's behalf to see if Ranger School would allow him to assist and visit, a "Make a Wish" sort of request, Spayd told the Post. Now that first visit has gone well beyond that. Spayd first walked with students at Eglin in 2013, and he's now been involved in the last 19 classes, spanning nearly two years. Spayd said being part of the Rangers gives him a sense of purpose.

To see the story, click here.

Now for your aerospace week in review:

In Alabama, interior cabin specialists Vartan Product Support will open a 3,300-square-foot facility at the Mobile Aeroplex in October to provide on-site cabin interiors support to the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility at the Aeroplex. Vartan also has operations in Charleston, S.C., and Seattle to support Boeing facilities and in Toulouse, France, and Tianjin, China, to support Airbus final assembly lines. (Post)

A special memorial service was held Friday at Hurlburt Field, Fla., for two airmen from the 24th Special Operations Wing who died during a training accident at Eglin Air Force Base earlier in the week.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy A. Officer, 32, and Tech. Sgt. Marty B. Bettelyoun, 35, died during the free-fall parachute training accident at Eglin’s Camp Rudder. They were assigned to the 720th Operations Support Squadron, part of the 24th SOW at Hurlburt.

Special tactics airmen are the Air Force’s ground special operations forces who often embed with Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces to integrate air power for the special operations ground force. (Post)

-- Ford employees are spending three week at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base to test vehicles in extreme cold. The lab, the largest facility of its kind, is being used to test the vehicles in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the size of the lab that appealed to Ford, which can put up to 72 vehicles in the lab. Ford has been coming to the lab for at least a decade. (Post)

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore's ambassador to the United States, was in the Gulf Coast region visiting sites of interest to his country. In Florida he visited Pensacola International Airport, where Singapore's VT MAE plans to build a $37 million maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. (Post)

The next day he was in Mobile, Ala., where VT MAE, owned by Singapore Technologies Engineering, has had an MRO since 1991. The company also owns shipbuilder VT Halter Marine, which has operations in Pascagoula, Miss.

The Gulf Coast Reporters' League just-released aerospace newsletter had a feature story about VT MAE and its growth in the region. The president of VT MAE, Bill Hafner, said he's "bullish" about the Gulf Coast I-10 aerospace region, which he sees as primed for growth. The expansion of VT MAE underscores that. The new operation in Pensacola will have 300 to 500 workers, and there's already talk about a "Phase II" that would double the company's footprint in Pensacola (Post)

There were other stories in the aerospace newsletter published early in the week about some growing operations. One of the stories was about the biggest company in aerospace, Boeing. The company about 100 years ago supplied planes for fledgling Navy fliers in Pensacola, and today its Northwest Florida operation is expanding its role of keeping U.S. warplanes the most up-to-date in the world. For 20 years now, Boeing has been a part of the Panhandle’s Fort Walton Beach. And its footprint in Fort Walton Beach has grown with the opening of a second building. (Post)

Boeing is not the only company growing. Over in Kiln, Miss., a company that works on large, loud, multi-engine military aircraft has found it helpful to be in a location where engines can be run at any time day or night. That's precisely what Selex Galileo can do at its two-hangar South Mississippi operation located within the massive acoustical buffer zone of NASA’s Stennis Space Center. (Post)

Speaking of growth, that's also in the cards at Mobile Aeroplex. Just ask Phil Gurvitz. He doesn't hedge when asked why France's AKKA Technologies decided to set up shop not far from where Airbus will assemble U.S.-built jetliners. While AKKA’s initial staffing will be small, Gurvitz sees a bright future for aerospace engineering at the Mobile Aeroplex, which he sees as being in the “perfect position” for growth. (Post)

An Italian KC-767A tanker refueled an F-35A for the first time in a test in California. The milestone comes as Italy prepares to flight test its first domestically-assembled F-35A, which rolled off the Cameri assembly line in March. It will eventually be flown to the United States to support pilot training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The F-35 refueling was July 29 over Edwards Air Force Base.

Italy will eventually share an F-35 reprogramming lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with Norway. Eglin is home to the F-35 integrated training center and F-35 reprogramming lab. Groundbreaking for the lab will be next year. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $431.2 million modification to the previously awarded Lot IX F-35 advance acquisition contract for the procurement of production non-recurring items, like special tooling and test equipment.

The work will be done in Texas, California, New Hampshire, the United Kingdom, Florida, Georgia, Italy, Minnesota, New York, Maryland, Illinois, Denmark, the Netherlands and Utah and is expected to be completed in December 2018. This modification combines purchase for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, non-U.S. Department of Defense participants and foreign military sales customers. (Post)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Week in review (7/26 to 8/1)

It's been a long time coming, but the Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has achieved Initial Operational Capability. The 10 F-35B Lightning II fighters of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., can now be deployed anywhere in the world. (Post)

The B variant can take off from short runways and land vertically, and gaining IOC is a milestone in the evolution of the controversial fighter, which has taken longer to develop and at a higher cost than initially expected.

The Air Force version of the fighter is the F-35A and the carrier-capable Navy variant is the F-35C. The A model is a conventional take-off and landing model that will go operational in the fall of 2016. The C model, which has a tailhook and will be used both by the Navy and Marines, is scheduled to go operational in 2018.

The Marines plan on buying 340 B and 80 C models. The first F-35B deployment is scheduled to take place in 2017, with VMFA-121 moving to Iwakuni, Japan. The jets are operational but not in heir final form. More capability, including the use of the plane's gun, will come down the line.

The decision to declare the F-35B’s IOC was made following an Operational Readiness Inspection that assessed the Marine Corps' ability to employ the high-tech weapon system in an operational environment.

The topic of the F-35 is closely followed by folks in this region. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and F-35 reprogramming lab.

-- In another F-35 item, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $37.5 million contract modification for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. The modification authorizes engineering change proposals for air vehicle retrofit modifications to be incorporated into designated aircraft and supporting subsystems in support of the F-35 aircraft Block 3F requirements.

This modification also includes retrofit modification kits, installation, and labor to incorporate the modification kits. Work will be performed in Texas, Georgia and California and is expected to be completed in August 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Economic development
OK, I avoided putting the headline "Mobile gets REEL," but that would have been valid. The REEL Group of France is establishing its first U.S. facility with 4,500-square-feet of office, warehouse, and workshop space at Mobile Aeroplex, which is also the site where Airbus will build A320  jetliners.

The announcement is in direct response to REEL Service Division being awarded the jigs and tools maintenance service provider contract for the Airbus A320 plant. The newly formed subsidiary, REEL USA Corp., is expected to create more than 20 full-time positions. The lease allows for expansion. (Post)

-- On another front, two sites in Baldwin County were awarded designation as Alabama AdvantageSites. The 39.5-acre Segers Aerospace Site, originally part of the Fairhope Industrial Park but now owned by Aviation Industrial Group Inc., became Baldwin County’s seventh Advantage site when it was given the designation early in the week. (Post)

Then later in the week, the 78.6-acre Gulf Shores Business and Aviation Park, adjacent to the Jack Edwards National Airport, became the county’s eighth AdvantageSite. The site is owned by the Gulf Sores Airport Authority. The AdvantageSite program, coordinated by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Gas Corp., Alabama Power Co., the North Alabama Industrial Development Association and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative. (Post)

A NASA-owned C-130 is almost halfway through some modification work being done at South Alabama Regional Airport in Andalusia, Ala. The Kearns Group of Daleville and Pinnacle Solutions of Huntsville are doing electrical and structural work on the plane, which got to the airport in June.

It's being modified for NASA’s Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America mission, which will measure atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane over the central and eastern U.S. during all four seasons. (Post)

-- While on the subject of aircraft, the new AC-130J "Ghostrider" gunship arrived during the week at Hurlburt Field, Fla., home of Air Force Special Operations Command. The plane, a heavily modified Lockheed Martin C-130, combines the firepower capabilities of the AC-130W and AC-130U gunships. The gunships are most notable for circling a target and firing down with pinpoint accuracy.

This particular aircraft spent the last few months at nearby Eglin Air Force Base where it went through an array of tests. Four pilots assigned to the new 2nd Detachment of the 1st Special Operations Group will put the aircraft through operational testing. A second Ghostrider is currently undergoing testing at Eglin. (Post)

L-3 Communications Corp., Madison, Miss., was awarded a $274.6 million contract modification for continued contractor logistic support for about 235 government aircraft (40 RC-12s, 167 C-12s, 28 UC-35s). Work will be performed in Madison with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2016. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting authority. … General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Aerospace, Bothell, Wash., was awarded a $7.2 million contract for heated and mobile munitions employing rockets. Work will be performed at Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 29, 2016. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity.