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)