Saturday, March 25, 2017

Week in review (3/19 to 3/25)

Get prepared for additional growth in the aerospace industry. The United States will see a "competitive and profitable aviation industry characterized by increasing demand for air travel [with] airfares growing more slowly than inflation" over the next two decades.

That's according to the FAA's annual Aerospace Forecast for fiscal years 2017-2037. "Looking ahead, there is confidence that the industry has been transformed from that of a boom-to-bust cycle to one of sustainable profits," FAA said in the report.

And airports in the region should take note. The FAA projected that "traffic growth by US mainline and regional carriers will increase at an average rate of 2.4 percent per year," while "passenger growth on US carriers will increase at an average 1.9 percent per year." (Post)

One of the companies that will be supplying jetliners for that growing industry is, of course, the Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. Made in Alabama, produced by the Alabama Department of Commerce, had a feature story during the week about the employees at the plant.

As you know, the first Alabama-made A321 jetliner took to the skies on its maiden flight a year ago, and the company is ramping up to eventually produce 40 to 50 jetliners each year. In the article, Gov. Robert Bentley noted that the plant is not only producing planes, but also creating opportunities that enrich the lives of the workforce. The story focuses on several of the plant's workers. (Post)

The first RS-25 engine controller that will be used on the first flight of the new Space Launch System (SLS) was tested late in the week at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The new controller or "brain" has the electronics that operate the engine and communicate with the SLS vehicle.

Engine Controller Unit-2 was installed on RS-25 development engine No. 0528 and test fired for 500 seconds on the A-1 Test Stand. The engine controller will be installed on one of four flight engines that will help power the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft.

This year, two more engine controllers for the first SLS mission will be tested on this development engine at Stennis and installed on flight engines. The fourth controller will be tested when NASA tests the entire core stage during a green run on the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis. That testing will involve installing the core stage on the stand and firing its four RS-25 flight engines simultaneously, as during a mission launch. (Post)

The Department of Defense announced during the week the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Sgt. 1st Class Robert R. Boniface, 34, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., died March 19 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

-- Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is the recipient of a new weather training technology. The 355th Training Squadron’s Weather Training Complex is where you'll find a 48-inch carbon fiber globe suspended from the ceiling that comes to life thanks to the projectors that point at it from each corner of the room.

The Science on a Sphere uses computers with high-end graphic cards and video projectors to display data onto the globe. It was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an education tool to help illustrate earth weather science through animations of atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperatures.

The globe doesn't move, but gives that illusion. Instructors for Weather Initial Skills and Weather Officer Courses will use the system as a tool to help students gain an enhanced understanding of fundamental atmospheric and oceanographic processes. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $10.5 million delivery order against a previously awarded basic ordering agreement to complete a Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3 risk reduction and integration study of the F-35 air system for the government of the United Kingdom. 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. … Engineering Research and Consulting Inc., Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $99 million contract for Seek Eagle modeling, analysis, and tools support. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by Sept. 22, 2022. Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $24.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for QF-16 full-scale aerial target (FSAT) Lot 5A production. Contractor will provide 18 QF-16 FSATs and 18 associated four-year warranties for the QF-16 drone-peculiar equipment program. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Week in review (3/12 to 3/18)

NASA selected 133 proposals from U.S. companies to conduct research and develop technologies to help NASA's future deep-space missions. They include four projects with a combined value of $3 million that are tied to Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The proposals were selected under Phase II of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR Phase II projects will expand on the results of recently-completed Phase I projects. Phase I projects received six-month contracts of as much as $125,000. Phase II contracts are awarded up to $750,000 and the period of performance is no more than two years.

Successful Phase II projects may go on to Phase III of the program, which is commercialization. The proposals were selected according to technical merit and feasibility, in addition to the experience, qualifications and facilities of the companies, and their work plans and commercial potential. (Post)

In another space-related item outside this region, OneWeb Satellites LLC broke ground on an $85 million high-volume satellite manufacturing factory in Exploration Park, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It's set to begin production, integration and satellite testing later this year.

OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a satellite-based internet provider, and Airbus.

The factory is being built in partnership with the state of Florida and Space Florida. The initiative is anticipated to create nearly 250 direct, highly skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs, as well as thousands more throughout a broad supplier base across the nation that will support production.

"This new American-built manufacturing facility is the latest example of Airbus' commitment to expanding our manufacturing footprint in the U.S.," said Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas. "We already build civil and military helicopters in Texas and Mississippi, as well as commercial aircraft in Alabama. So, building satellites in Florida with our partner OneWeb continues the Airbus trend of growing U.S.-based manufacturing and jobs and staying close to our American supply chain, within which we invest $17 billion annually.” (Press release)

MAAS Aviation named Geoffrey Myrick as the chief operating officer in Mobile, Ala. Myrick will serve as operations officer for both the existing OEM (original equipment manufacturing) hangar that supports Airbus Americas and the new twin bay MRO hangar that provides services to commercial aircraft carriers as well as lease companies, military and corporate jet markets.

Prior to joining MAAS, Myrick served as vice president of sales for Certified Aviation Services, LLC, where his focus was the creation and execution of sales strategies in the MRO market. In previous roles, Myrick spent about five years at VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering in various capacities centered around marketing, sales, and management. (Post)

Two Eglin Air Force Base officers have been nominated for general rank appointments. In one appointment, Brig. Gen. Shaun Morris, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons and Armament Directorate director, was nominated to the grade of major general. In the other, Col. Lansing R. Pilch, commander 33rd Fighter Wing, Air Education and Training Command, has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. (Post)

-- Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson announced that Rear Adm. (lower half) Kyle J. Cozad, selected for promotion to rear admiral, will be assigned as commander, Naval Education and Training Command, Pensacola, Fla. Cozad is currently serving as commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, Norfolk, Va. (Post)

HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $95 million contract for personnel, supervision, and services necessary to provide services for research and development and related activities for the Engineer Research and Development Center Information Technology Laboratory. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of March 14, 2022. … Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ subsidiary Composite Engineering Inc. (CEi) received the Lot 13 production of a previous awarded contract for Lots 11-13 of the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target. The $22.3 million contract will be performed by the Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, comprised of CEi and Micro Systems Inc. (MSI). CEi’s Sacramento, Calif., facility will lead the effort and provide 25 high performance BQM-167A aerial targets and associated technical support. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based MSI will supply the majority of the high performance avionics utilized on the aircraft, including critical command, control and flight computer systems. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. received a task order to support the U.S. Air Force 53rd Wing operations. The task order was awarded with a value of $204.9 million over four years and nine months if all options are exercised, and focuses on the provision of information technology support for weapons and computer systems related to systems development and operational activities. Work sites are primarily located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., but some work will also be done at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and other locations. … Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) engineering, manufacture and development. Work will be performed at Sunnyvale and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2019. Work on the propulsion module for the SBIRS is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … URS Federal Services Inc., Germantown, Md., was awarded a $35.1 million contract to provide maintenance services, including integrated support equipment (SE) maintenance repair and overhaul services to reduce repair cycle time and the availability of ready for use SE in the fleet and the Fleet Readiness Center Aviation Support Equipment sites. New Orleans will be the location for 5 percent of the work.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Week in review (3/5 to 3/11)

The House passed a $578 billion fiscal 2017 defense spending bill during the week. It allocates $8.2 billion to buy 74 additional F-35 fighters and funds 28 Lakota helicopters. Not in the bill is the expected supplemental budget request from the administration.

Any spending on the F-35 is welcomed in this region. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and reprogramming labs. There are also companies, like Fort Walton Machining, that make parts for the fifth-generation fighter.

The bill also includes $187 million for the Lakota helicopters built by Airbus in Columbus, Miss., and in this region they are used by the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. It now has to make its way to the Senate. (Post)

On another front, Trump's plan to cut the Coast Guard budget to help fund his proposed wall along the border with Mexico is facing rough waters. One group that is highly critical is one of the oldest advocacy groups in the nation, the Navy League.

According to Breaking Defense, the group points out the number of search-and-rescue missions conducted each day the the Coast Guard, and the lives saved, as well as its role in stopping undocumented migrants and illegal drugs. A single National Security Cutter of the type Trump wants to cancel conducted 12 drug interdictions, confiscated more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine and detained 32 suspected smugglers in a single month, according to the League. (Story)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, says Trump would be "foolish" to cut the Coast Guard's budget to help fund a wall, saying such a move would make the nation less safe and kill jobs in states like Virginia. (Story) Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says 40 percent of all Coast Guard activity is in Florida, and it makes no sense to build a wall along the border and remove the maritime wall. (Story)

In addition to Nelson’s point about the level of activity in Florida, the rest of the Gulf Coast also has a lot at risk. We have Coast Guard stations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.

If my guess is right, this proposal is a no-go.

In other aerospace news of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week:

Italy's Leonardo is flying solo in the competition to build the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer. The company plans to establish final assembly for the M-346 trainer derivative in the United States, but where is still up in the air. When Raytheon was a partner, the plan was to build the trainers in Meridian, Miss., if the team won the contract. But that went away when Raytheon dropped out in January.

The proposed T-100 will use two Honeywell F124 engines made in Arizona, and its CAE simulators will be built in Florida. DRS will represent the American face of Leonardo, which did not select a separate US partner when it re-entered the competition. (Post)

-- Germany's defense ministry has decided to buy MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance planes built by Northrop Grumman for deliveries after 2025. The new drones will replace the Euro Hawk program, which Berlin canceled in May 2013 after it became clear that it could cost up to 600 million euros to get the system approved for use in civil airspace.

The plan, which must still be approved by parliament, calls for Germany to buy the Tritons from the Navy. Sensors for the Triton are to be built by Airbus. Fuselage work on the Triton variants of the Global Hawk are built in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

In Alabama, the 79,000-square-foot CAE Dothan Training Center is now officially opened at Dothan Regional Airport. It’s designed to provide fixed-wing flight training to the Army, Air Force and other customers.

The CAE center provides classroom, simulator training and live flight training. CAE is responsible for providing all the training required for experienced rotary-wing aviators transitioning to fly the services fleet of more than 350 fixed-wing aircraft. More than 600 Army and Air Force pilots will be trained annually. The center is 10 miles from Fort Rucker. (Post)

-- A record 11.1 million passengers traveled through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in 2016, with more than a third using Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based airline continued to dominate domestic flights in and out of New Orleans, shuttling more than 4.1 million travelers in 2016. That was double the number who flew Delta Airlines. (Post)

-- Alaska Airlines, the parent company of Virgin America, will launch daily nonstop flights from Louis Armstrong International Airport to San Francisco starting Sept. 21. The daily Virgin America flight will depart New Orleans at 4 p.m. and arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 p.m. local time. The return connection will depart San Francisco at 8:48 a.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 3:03 p.m. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $64.7 million for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order procures work on the integrated core processor in order to alleviate diminishing manufacturing sources constraints projected under F-35 production Lot 15 for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners (20 percent). Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in March 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Applied Systems Engineering Corp., Niceville, Fla., was awarded an $11.7 million contract to provide essential hardware, upgrades, and repairs for the Battle Management Systems program, specifically Advanced Tactical Navigator units. The work will be performed in Niceville and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity. … ViON Corp., Herndon, Calif., was awarded a $34.8 million contract to provide Capacity as a Service support to Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Headquarters, SPAWAR System Center Pacific and SPAWAR System Center Atlantic. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C. (63 percent); San Diego, Calif. (30 percent); New Orleans, La. (5 percent); and Norfolk, Va. (2 percent). Work is expected to be completed March 2022. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Week in review (2/26 to 3/4)

Northwest Florida as a region must commit to economic diversification if it wants to create the change its business leaders envision. That was the message from Jon Roberts for more than 100 people who showed up at Northwest Florida State College recently for a preview of the "blueprint" for successful regional diversification.

The plan is called Northwest Florida Forward. Key points are training a workforce capable of filling positions as new industry locates in the area, and taking advantage of existing regional industry clusters such as aerospace and defense.

"We designed this regional strategy to be a framework for prioritizing projects so everyone in Northwest Florida benefits," said Rick Byars, the chairman of the board of Florida's Great Northwest. (Post)

This is something that clearly needs to be done. I've always said the entire region, from Southeast Louisiana to Northwest Florida, has huge potential if the various organizations would work together. Doing something like this in one part of that region - Northwest Florida- certainly makes sense.

-- On another economic development front over in Mobile, Ala., Roger Wehner resigned as executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority. The authority said Mark McVay, director of finance, will serve as interim executive director while the board of directors conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

It was in 2013 that Wehner became executive director of MAA, which oversees operations of the Mobile Aeroplex and Mobile Regional Airport. He was involved in activities at MAA even before that, on loan to the agency from Alabama Power. During his tenure the Mobile Aeroplex saw considerable growth as aerospace companies came to the aeroplex to be close to the Airbus A320 final assembly line. (Post)

I just hope Wehner ends up staying in this region working in economic development in some capacity. His experience is crucial to our region.

It looks like the Air Force Special Operations Command will be installing and testing lasers on AC-130 gunships this year. That’s what Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, head of AFSOC, told Breaking Defense.

Webb said AFSOC, based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., hasn’t decided where the laser would go. The tests will help determine that, as well as which mix of weapons is most effective. Webb’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, had previously said the laser would probably go on the left side of the plane. (Post)

-- Speaking of Hurlburt Field, AFSOC is currently hosting Emerald Warrior, a joint military exercise involving 1,500 military personnel from the Air Force, Army and Marines, along with three partner nations.

It began Feb. 27 and ends March 11. Scenarios include operations involving inserting and removing troops from combat situations, direct assaults, military freefall, and live-fire events. In addition to the activities in Northwest Florida, training will be conducted at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, Melrose Range, N.M., and Fort Knox, Ky. (Post)

-- Halfway through their winter training in El Centro, Calif., the Blue Angels are getting ready to begin their 2017 season March 11 with their annual start-of-season performance at Naval Air Facility El Centro. The Blue Angels are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

The 20th Space Control Squadron's Charlie Crew at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., successfully tracked India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle Feb. 15. Loaded with 104 satellites, the Indian PSLV set the record for the most spacecraft launched by a single rocket.

Using the world's most powerful phased-array radar, the space surveillance squadron uses an integrated team of military and civilian airmen to track an estimated 23,000 near-Earth and deep-space objects each day. The AN/FPS-85 is the only phased array radar capable of tracking objects 40,000 kilometers away. (Post)

The Northwest Florida International Beaches Airport Authority is set to begin exit terminal security improvements. The board approved GAC Contractors to install glass-walled security corridors and a video-enabled exit lane breach control system from Tyco Integrated Security.

Tyco's system uses video analytics technology to immediately identify if an individual attempts to enter an airport exit lane from the wrong direction. It alerts security personnel and records the incident for instant playback. (Post)

The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility will be making more than A320 series jetliners next week. The production team will be making pink paper planes March 8 as part of the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week’s Guinness World Record Attempt. It’s designed to show Airbus’ support of women in the aviation industry. The plane throw will be at 11 a.m. CST. A minimum of 40 and up to 200 paper planes are expected to be thrown. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded three contracts related to the F-35 program. It was awarded a $1 billion contract for recurring logistics support and sustainment services for F-35 aircraft in support of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants; and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. It also was awarded a $20.6 million modification to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The modification provides for airworthiness requirements, technical reviews, deficiency corrections, and chase maintenance for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-U.S. Department of Defense (Non-U.S. DoD) participants, and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The company also was awarded an $11.6 million contract action against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for initial operational test and evaluation configuration support efforts in support of the F-35 aircraft for the Air Force and Navy, and international partner countries. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity for all three contracts. … ECSC LLC, Panama City, Fla., was awarded a not-to-exceed $40,000,000 contract for paving requirements at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada. The 99th Contracting Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded $15 million modification to a previously awarded contract for aircraft maintenance and logistical life cycle support for the C-12 utility lift aircraft. New Orleans will be one of the work locations (4 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity. … Pride Industries, Roseville, Calif., was awarded an $18.4 million contract for base operations. Work will be performed in Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2018. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Fort Rucker, is the contracting activity.