Saturday, February 27, 2016

Week in review (2/21 to 2/27)

A major milestone has been reached by the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. The first A320 series jetliner built in the United States, this one an A321, recently went from the production line to the MAAS Aviation paint facility.

The twin-engine, single-aisle passenger jet, which eventually will be delivered to JetBlue, is the first produced at the $600 million Airbus plant at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. A half-dozen additional A320 series jetliners are also at various stages of assembly in Hangar 9. (Post)

Right now, the Mobile plant is building A320s with the current engine option, or "ceo." But in the future the plant will also build jetliners with the new engine option, or "neo." The new engines, which are more fuel efficient, are offered by Pratt and Whitney and CFM International.

According to Reuters, a Pratt and Whitney neo engine had problem during testing of the A320neo two weeks ago. The problem occurred when an oil pump failed after an engine was deliberately shut down in flight and left to turn with the natural airflow. Known as "windmilling," it’s designed to ensure an aircraft can fly on only one engine.

But a bearing seized within the main oil pump, according to an industry executive quoted by Reuters. Pratt and Whitney is investing, and early signs point to a manufacturing fault in a broken part made by Crane Aerospace, according to Reuters.

The aircraft involved is one of two A320neo models being used by Airbus for testing, which is designed to find these kinds of problems before new technologies move forward. Pratt & Whitney is a unit of United Technologies. (Story)

Maj. Gen. Mark Anthony Brown, commander, 2nd Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is being assigned to vice commander, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, according to the Air Force chief of staff. (Post)

Leidos Inc., of Arlington, Va., was awarded a $13 million contract for high speed weapons research and development. The contractor will provide support of technology research and development, modeling and simulation, and testing to address issues related to high-speed weapons. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2021. Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Pride Industries, of Roseville, Calif., was awarded a $14.8 million contract modification to exercise the option for follow-on year base operations for the Ft. Rucker, Ala., Department of Public Works, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Ft. Rucker, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Week in review (2/14 to 2/20)

There were a couple of items of interest in the field of contracts during the week.

The Air Force will transition for about three years some active-duty maintenance units to contract maintenance beginning in fiscal year 2017. It's for non-deployable flying units and back shop maintenance, and it will allow the Air Force to cross train about 1,100 experienced maintainers from F-16, A-10 and C-130 aircraft to the F-35 program.

The Air Force says it has a shortfall of 4,000 maintainers as a result of budgetary constraints. In the Gulf Coast region avionics units at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base and Tyndall Air Force Base are among the bases affected.

Other bases are Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Little Rock AFB, Ark., Nellis AFB, Nev., Eielson AFB, Alaska, Anderson AFB, Guam; Holloman AFB and Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; and Rota Air Base, Spain. (Post)

While we're on the subject of contract workers, the consolidation of operational contracts at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss., has resulted in the loss of 129 jobs at Stennis Space Center.

Stennis Space Center director Richard Gilbrech provided that number during a talk late in the week, updating folks on the status of NASA programs. Syncom Space Services took over the contracts from Jacobs Technology and eliminated some duplication, resulting in the loss of jobs.

Stennis has about 5,000 workers and Michoud 1,220. (Post)

Changes at the top are occurring at two bases in our region.

At Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Brig. Gen. David W. Hicks, vice commander of the First Air Force North, is being assigned to commander of NATO's Air Training Command-Afghanistan. At Tyndall he’ll be replaced by Brig. Gen. Daniel J. Orcutt, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Southwest Asia. (Post)

At Fort Rucker, Ala., Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, Germany, has been assigned to commanding general of the Aviation Center of Excellence. (Post)

Memorial march
One final note in this week's column.

Members of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command plan an 11-day memorial march across four states to commemorate last year's crash of a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Northwest Florida that killed four Louisiana National Guardsmen and seven Marines. The helicopter was flying in heavy fog when it crashed in the water near Navarre, not far from Eglin Air Force Base.

The Marine Raider Memorial March is set to begin with a memorial service March 10, then the next day more than two dozen Marines and veterans will begin a 770-mile march, starting at the crash site itself.

Each marcher will carry a 45-pound rucksack that includes a commemorative plate with all 11 service members names etched on it, and take turns carrying a paddle from the helicopter that washed ashore. The paddle will be turned over to Marine Corps leaders at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the end point of the march. (Story)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Week in revew (2/7 to 2/13)

You come across a lot of interesting stories when you follow the aerospace industry, including these gems about unmanned aerial systems. One was about the Russian military unveiling a drone that can carry anti-tank rocket launchers and flamethrowers.

The drone was developed by the United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation, a subsidiary of the civil and military technology firm Russian Technologies State Corporation. But here's the part that really jumped out. The human role in the management of the robots has been minimized, according to the article. A squadron of the drones is capable of working autonomously. (Story) For you sci-fi fans, that's certainly food for thought.

Another drone story that warrants mention, in the United States DARPA has had some success with its Fast Lightweight Autonomy program, designed to create algorithms to allow small drones to maneuver through cluttered spaces autonomously, and quickly.

The sensor-loaded quadcopters were tested in a cluttered hangar in Massachusetts, and did manage to edge their way around obstacles and achieve their target speeds of 20 meters per second, or 45 mph. These drones would help military teams patrolling dangerous urban environments and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes. It would help knowing the dangers inside before sending in soldiers or rescuers. (Story)

Finally, another article points out that earth and environmental scientists have often had to rely on piloted aircraft and satellites to collect remote sensing data, platforms that have traditionally been controlled by large research organizations or regulatory agencies.

But thanks to the improving affordability and technological advances of drones, these scientists can now conduct their own long-term high-resolution experiments at a fraction of the cost of using aircraft or satellites. (Story)

I mention these stories in part because the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor has a high-degree of interest in the development of unmanned aerial systems. Northrop Grumman does some of the work on two large UAVs, the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and fixed-wing Global Hawk, in Moss Point, Miss., and the military bases in our region fly UAVs. We also have the Gulf Unmanned System Center in Carrabelle, Fla.

Now for your Gulf Coast aerospace corridor week in review:

For the second week in a row we've had a private plane crash in the Gulf Coast region. This week, two people died when their Piper Archer crashed near Destin, Fla. The plane was registered to Texas-based Electrical Training. The two victims were identified as James Shumbert, 67, and passenger Sheryl Roe, 60, both of Alvin, Texas. (Post)

Last week, two people died after a Cessna crashed near Mobile Regional Airport, Ala., while returning after taking a patient to Baton Rouge, La. The victims were David R. Mauritson of Fairhope, Ala., and Phil J. Dryden of Gulf Shores. (Post)

On a much happier note, a company that specializes in final assembly line technologies is setting up shop at the Mobile Aeroplex. Broetje Automation's M-Technologie division will provide equipment design and support and final assembly technologies for the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility.

The company specializes in small tools, line side equipment, and processes required for the final assembly of aircraft. M-Technologie is a division of Broetje Automation, which specializes in production processes in the aviation and aerospace industry. It has 650 workers at sites in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and in the United States, Buffalo, N.Y., Charleston, S.C., and Wichita, Kan. (Post)

There were two contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, during the week in connection with the F-35. In both cases the contracting authority is the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. As you know, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and an F-35 reprogramming lab.

In one award, Lockheed Martin was an $81.4 million contract for requirements decomposition and development of Block 4 modernization program capabilities in support of the F-35A/B/C aircraft. This contract includes new and upgraded capabilities to provide enhancements and continuous improvements to maintain viability against evolving threats, reduce life cycle costs, and improve operational suitability.

Work will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in May 2017. This contract combines purchases for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and non-U.S. DoD participants. (Post)

In the other award, the company was awarded a $47 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for non-recurring effort and integration tasks required to operate a hardware-in-the-loop laboratory used to build, modify, verify and validate, and distribute mission data file sets for the F-35.

This contract will deliver modification kits to upgrade the RC West Block 3i Verification Validation Station to the Block 3F, 3F+, and 3F Digital Channelized Receiver/Technique Generator and Tuner Insertion Program configurations, and provide engineering support during the installation and integration of the modification kits, verification and validation test venue support in support of the F-35A aircraft for the governments of Japan and Israel, under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Work will be done in Fort Worth, Texas; Orlando, Fla.; Nashua, N.H.; El Segundo, Calif.; and San Diego, Calif. (2 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2021. (Post)

GLO, a public charter airline launched in New Orleans last November, will add a seasonal non-stop service to Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fla. in March. The flight brings Louis Armstrong International Airport's list of non-stop destinations to 53 cities total. GLO is scheduled to begin Friday, Saturday and Sunday flights from New Orleans to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport on March 25. The service will run through Sept. 5. (Post)

Blue Angels
The Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron helped kick off the 2016 Super Bowl with a flyover at the Stadium. The Blue Angels' six-jet Delta formation soared over more than 70,000 spectators at the stadium following the national anthem. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. For the 2016 air show season the team is scheduled to fly 65 demonstrations at 33 locations throughout North America. It’s the team's 70th anniversary this year. (Post)

Raytheon Missile Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $27.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide life of type buys and obsolescence components under the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Lots 28-30 production. Work will be done in Tucson and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2017. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Reliance Test & Technology, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $150.2 million contract for Eglin Operation and Maintenance Services support. Contractor will provide engineering and technical services necessary to operate the 96th Test Wing’s ranges and facilities in order to support the research, development, test and evaluation of weapon systems, subsystems, and components. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be complete by March 31, 2018. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Week in review (1/31 to 2/6)

The February edition of the Gulf Coast Reporters’ League aerospace newsletter will be published Tuesday. In this issue of the eight-page bimonthly, we'll tell you about Embry-Riddle's sizeable footprint in the region, and about the growth of Mobile's aerospace cluster.

We'll also have a story about The Rockhill Group, a Molino, Fla., company that has grown dramatically over the years providing aviation services to the military. We'll also tell you about a new DoD contract that will help SpaceX develop its powerful Raptor engine. It's using Stennis Space Center, Miss., for its R&D. We also have a story on Larry Sassano's retirement from Florida's Great Northwest.

If you're interested in getting the newsletter sent to you via email, send me an email and I'll add you to the list. It's free, and the list is used for no other purpose. Or if you want to download the newsletter, visit our aerospace corridor website or the Gulf Coast Reporters' League website after Tuesday.

Now for your week in review:

An F-35 built in Italy made history Friday when it became the first F-35 to make a transatlantic crossing. With an Italian Air Force pilot at the controls, aircraft AL-1 was refueled en route by an Italian KC-767 tanker on its way from Lajes Field in Portugal's Azores island group and touched down at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Friday after a seven-hour flight.

The plane began its journey earlier in the week when it left Cameri Air Base, Italy, for the trip to Portugal. The plane was built at the Cameri final assembly line.

In June 2014, a contingent of U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs had been poised to make the first transatlantic crossing to London to attend the Farnborough Airshow until an F-35A caught fire at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., temporarily grounding the fleet. (Post)

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Friday that the U.S. Defense Department plans to buy 404 F-35 fighters over the next five years, a net decrease of 5 to 7 percent from last year's plan. Reuters cites sources familiar with the plans. The orders will amount to about $40 billion in new revenue for Lockheed and engine maker Pratt & Whitney. The revised procurement numbers will be released on Tuesday when the Pentagon issues its fiscal 2017 budget and the new five-year plan. (Story)

In another F-35 item during the week, a Pentagon report says the fifth-generation plane, which is to form the backbone of the military's future fighter fleet, is still dogged by problems. Engineers uncovered a slew of flaws during extensive testing of the newest versions of the F-35, the Pentagon report found. There have been software bugs, technical glitches and cost overruns.

One issue in the report is an investigation into the F-35's eject system. Engineers found that pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds risked being killed by it. Pentagon officials have acknowledged that a decision at the outset to start building the jet before testing was finished has caused difficulties. As a result, glitches have forced repeated repairs and redesign work, slowing down production and raising costs.

After the document was released, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who is the F-35 program's executive officer, released an upbeat statement saying the report contained "no surprises." (Story)

In one final F-35 item, Lockheed Martin of Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $61.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for recurring logistics services support for F-35. Work will be performed in Texas, California, the United Kingdom, Florida, New Hampshire and Maryland. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

The recently completed Exploration Mission One (EM-1) Orion spacecraft was shipped from Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to Florida's Kennedy Space Center early in the week aboard NASA's Super Guppy aircraft.

At KSC it will undergo tests to ensure its structural integrity. The pressure vessel, built by Lockheed Martin at MAF, is the structure that holds the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems. This structure will eventually be fitted atop NASA’s Space Launch System and conduct its first mission in 2018 – an unscrewed orbit around the moon. (Post)

Air Force Special Operations Command dedicated an AC-130H Spectre gunship and MC-130P Combat Shadow special operations aircraft for display in the airpark at Hurlburt Field during the week. The AC-130 "Wicked Wanda" was retired in December 2014. The MC-130P had its last sortie in May. There was also a tribute to 14 crewmen who died aboard in 1991 when their gunship was shot down during the Gulf War during the Battle of Khafji. (Post)

-- The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will conduct some training in the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay Monday through Thursday. Each morning, fighters will release munitions between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. about eight to 20 nautical miles south of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico. In the afternoons between 1 and 5 p.m., about 30 boats travelling in formation, will transverse between the Mid-Bay Bridge and the Highway 331 Bridge. The boat formation will be used as visual targets by F-15s and F-16s flying over the area. (Post)

Two people died after a Cessna crashed near Mobile Regional Airport while returning from a charity flight early in the week. The plane was returning after flying a patient to Baton Rouge, La. The victims were David R. Mauritson of Fairhope, Ala., and Phil J. Dryden of Gulf Shores. (Post)

X Corp Solutions Inc., Stafford, Va., was awarded a contract with a five-year ordering period and a ceiling of $50 million for security and counterintelligence operations support services. Among the locations of work performance is Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. DTRA, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity. … General Dynamics Information Technology, Fairfax, Va., was awarded a $46.7 million contract for security cooperation, security assistance, foreign military sales technical, and program/project management support services to the Naval International Programs Office, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapon Systems Command (WSS) and applicable customers of NAVSUP WSS International Programs Directorate. Ten percent of the work will be performed is Pensacola, Fla. Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, Contracting Department, Philadelphia Office, Pa., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $15.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract related to Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) production. Some of the work will be done in Troy, Ala. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Strategic Defense Solutions LLC, Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $13.2 million contract with options for gunnery range support, Ft. Rucker, Ala. Army Contracting Command, Ft. Benning, Ga., is the contracting activity. … Composite Engineering Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was awarded a $37 million contract for Air Force Subscale Aerial Target peculiar spares, contractor logistics support, and out of warranty repairs. The procurement will be used at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and the Utah Test and Training Range. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Airbus Defense and Space Inc., Herndon, Va., was awarded an $8.6 million contract modification for logistics support for UH-72A helicopters. Work will be performed in Herndon with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2016. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity. The helicopters are built in Columbus, Miss.