If you're a regular reader of this column, you know I didn't have one last week. But I was busy putting the gears in motion for a new Gulf Coast Reporters’ League publication that I feel certain will eventually prompt some well-it's-about-time reactions.
I'll fill you in more in the near future as it all takes shape. Now, here's your Gulf Coast aerospace week in review:
It's hard to overstate the significance of what's happening starting this weekend in Mobile, Ala. Think of it as the happily-ever-after ending of a journey that started in 2005. That was the year that EADS, now known as the Airbus Group, started looking for a site in the United States to build tankers for the U.S. Air Force. It chose Mobile.
The tanker project went to Boeing, but Airbus liked what it saw in Alabama's port city and picked the city for another, even more significant project. Now, 10 years later, the European aerospace giant is having an invitation-only inaugural Monday at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley for its brand new, state-of-the-art A320 manufacturing plant.
We'll have a story and photos for you Monday on our Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor news feed. You'll find a brief summary on the feed itself, along with a link to the full story and photos. We'll also have a story in the October issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League aerospace bimonthly.
But even before this event, there were other Airbus-related news of interest to the Gulf Coast during the past week. Engine-maker Rolls-Royce won a $700 million deal to supply and maintain engines for the new Airbus fleet of Beluga cargo jets.
Those odd-looking aircraft are used to transport large sections of new planes to the company's worldwide system of plants. The contract is to provide Trent 700 engines for to power the five new aircraft. The current Beluga fleet has engines made by GE. Rolls-Royce tests Trent engines at its outdoor test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
Across the Atlantic, another new production plant marked a milestone during the week. The first F-35 assembled at Italy's Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out facility flew for the first time Monday. It was an hour and 22-minute flight, the first F-35 to fly outside North America.
The Cameri FACO is owned by the Italian government and operated by Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi in association with Lockheed Martin. F-35 production began in July 2013 and the first Italian F-35A, AL-1, rolled out in March. AL-1’s official delivery to Italy is expected by the end of the year. The facility will assemble Italy’s F-35A conventional variant and the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant. The plant will assemble the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-35A aircraft.
The Gulf Coast connections? Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center, and both Lockheed Martin and Finmeccanica have operations in the region. (Post)
In other F-35 news, multiple contracts have been awarded over the past couple of weeks. In the largest, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, late last month was awarded a $430.9 million contract for non-air vehicle spares, support equipment, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software upgrades, supply chain management, full mission simulators and non-recurring engineering services in support of low-rate initial production Lot 9 F-35 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics also was awarded early this month a $311.4 million contract for F-35 Block 3F upgrade for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the government of the United Kingdom. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity. (Post)
Aso, United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney, Military Engines, of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $249.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to procure low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 9 propulsion system initial spares for the global spares pool. Work will be performed in East Hartford, Indianapolis, Ind., and Bristol, UK. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Finally, American Systems Corp., Chantilly, Va., was awarded a $6.8 million modification to previously awarded contracts for F-35 operational test and evaluation verification and validation. Work will be done at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is the contracting activity. (Post)
Engineers at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have welded together the first two segments of the Orion crew module that will fly atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on a mission beyond the moon.
The primary structure of Orion's crew module is made of seven large aluminum pieces that must be welded together. NASA's prime contractor for the spacecraft, Lockheed Martin, is doing the production of the crew module at Michoud in east New Orleans. (Post)
Down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Navy's fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite recently launched. MUOS-4's signal was acquired about three hours after launch, completing the initial operational constellation and provides near global network coverage for warfighters and combatant commanders. Work on the core propulsion system for the A2100 satellite-based spacecraft was done by Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
A retired F-15C Eagle fighter is now at the Haney Technical Center in Lynn Haven, Fla. The jet was towed from Tyndall Air Force Base for at Haney. The school’s aviation program is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and a curriculum will be designed around the fourth-generation fighter. (Post)
Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $7 million modification to exercise an option on previously awarded contract for full food services. Work will be at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2017. The 81st Contracting Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC, Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $10.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for engineering, manufacturing and development for Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit development. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $100 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option to provide organizational, intermediate, depot-level maintenance and logistics services for the T-44, and organizational maintenance for T-6 aircraft. Work will be performed in Corpus Christi, Texas, Whiting Field, Fla., and Pensacola, Fla. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $12 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for maintenance, repair, and logistics support for the Chief of Naval Air Training Aircraft's intermediate maintenance departments located at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla., and NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded a $19.8 million modification to a delivery order previously issued against a basic ordering agreement in support of the V-22. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is one of the sites where 1 percent of the work will be performed. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.