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.