Saturday, April 7, 2018

Week in review (4/1 to 4/7)

The death of a Thunderbird pilot who had been an F-35 pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, the expansion of a Wright Patterson education program to this region, and new leadership at for Army aviation at Fort Rucker were among the news stories of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor during the week.

Here's your week in review:

It was a tough week for military aviation personnel.

The Thunderbirds pilot killed in a crash in Nevada was identified as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who had joined the team this season. Before joining the team, Del Bagno served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

He was alone in the F-16 Fighting Falcon when it left Nellis Air Force Base and crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range. (Post)

Earlier in the week, four Marines were killed when a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed near El Centro, Calif. The personnel killed were identified as Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, 1st Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley, and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad, all with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Three have Gulf Coast ties. Schultz, 28, of Huntington Valley, Pa., and Phillips, 27, of Pinehurst, N.C., were pilots who had previously served at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Conrad, 24, the helicopter crew chief, is from Baton Rouge, La. (Post)

-- On a brighter note, the Army chief of staff announced the assignment of Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Daugherty, deputy chief of staff, G-3, U.S. Army Europe, Germany, to commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center; and director of Army Safety, Fort Rucker, Ala.

Also announced was the assignment of Brig. Gen. David J. Francis, commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center; and director of Army Safety, Fort Rucker, to director, Army Aviation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C. (Post)

-- During the week, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., visited Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., got a bird's-eye view of the Gulf Range Training Complex, a large range used by the military in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nelson said he has protected such training areas by opposing oil drilling too close to Florida’s shore. His flight was in a T-38 Talon jet piloted by 325th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Michael Hernandez. (Post)

There is nothing more important for our future than the education of our youth.

Middle school, high school and college students near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, will get personalized, one-on-one training from leading professionals as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Educational Outreach office expands its Leadership, Experience, Growing, Apprenticeships Committed to Youth program to those locations this summer.

The three locations began taking applications in January with coursework starting this summer. The four sites have a total of 631 student applications. Eglin, Robins and the Air Force Academy were chosen for their strong STEM programs already in place. (Post)

-- The city of Milton, Fla., is facing a bill to repair a U.S. Navy training plane that has been on static display outside Milton High School since 1976. Cleaning, painting, abating corrosion and doing other repairs will likely cost more than $25,000, said City Manager Brian Watkins.

The plane, which was loaned to the city by the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola Naval Air Station, was flagged for repairs after an inspection by the Naval History and Heritage Command. (Post)

Economic development
The acquisition of GKN Aerospace in what the British media call “a hostile takeover” is not expected to affect the company’s new manufacturing facility at VentureCrossings in West Bay.

Becca Hardin, president of the Bay Economic Development Alliance, said the new plant is poised to start making parts this summer. She said she’s been in constant contact with GKN officials. Melrose Industries, a turnaround specialist, secured an $11 billion takeover of the British engineering firm and defense contractor.

Hardin said GKN's building near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is open now, with furniture being moved in and the 170 employees in the process of being hired. She said the undisclosed aviation products that will be manufactured here are part of a long-term federal government project. (Post)

-- The jet that Airbus and Bombardier plan to build in Mobile will bring coastal Alabama into a new front in the ongoing battle between Airbus and Boeing, the world’s two dominant jetliner builders.

Airbus and Boeing have been battling for years in the midsize single-aisle market. Mobile entered that fight when it began building A320 series jets. The new front is a fight over the single-aisle jets that seat from 100 to 150 passengers.

Now with Airbus lining up with Canada's Bombardier and Boeing considering a tie-in with Brazil’s Embraer, Mobile will be a big player in that fight as well. (Post)

-- W. Kevin Melton will be the new executive director of Chennault International Airport Authority, beginning in late April. He’s replacing Randy Robb, who steps down after 10 years at the helm.

Melton joins Chennault from American Airlines, where he was a project manager, facilitating and directing airport terminal and hangar construction projects for national and international sites. Melton retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel after 24 years of service.

Chennault International Airport is a major industrial airport in Lake Charles, La. The airport and its tenants employ some 1,500 persons and account for $300 million in annual economic impact. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aerospace Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $211.3 million contract for Block 4.1 common capabilities pre-modernization efforts in support of the F-35 Lightning II preliminary design review in support of the Air Force and international partners. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in July 2019. 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 and reprogramming labs. … L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., and other companies in Illinois, Texas, Alabama, and Florida will share in a $25.5 billion hybrid contract for aircraft and support equipment maintenance, minor modification, and supply chain management primarily for performance outside the continental U.S. to support equipment and personnel in known theaters of operations. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of April 3, 2028. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity.

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