Saturday, May 19, 2018

Week in review (5/13 to 5/19)

Remember the battle between Boeing and Airbus over the contract to build Air Force aerial tankers? As a refresher, Airbus in 2008 won the contract to build them in Mobile, Ala., but lost it in 2011 in the wake of a protest by Boeing. The tankers are now being built in Everett, Wash.

As anyone who has followed aviation will tell you, Mobile arguably got a better deal in the long-run when Airbus decided to leverage its relationship with Mobile and build A320 series jetliners in the city. The company began churning them out a couple of years ago, and is now producing four a month. Now it’s getting ready to increase that, and Mobile also will be the site where CSeries jetliners for Canada's Bombardier will be built.

And the Boeing KC-46 aerial tanker? Seven years since the contract award, no deliveries yet. Aviation Week reported during the week that Boeing says it's on the cusp of delivering a game-changing tanker capability. But the Air Force says Boeing has to resolve significant design flaws and is far from completing the required flight testing.

Boeing and the Air Force disagree on the delivery timing and what work remains. Boeing says it will deliver of first 18 KC-46 planes by the end of the year, but the Air Force expects them by May 2019, 21 months later than originally planned.

You can read the May 14 Aviation Week story here.

Speaking of Airbus and Boeing, the U.S. during the week won a trade case challenging subsidies that European Union nations had provided Airbus to develop A350 and A380 jetliners. The ruling affirmed a 2016 World Trade Organization ruling that the EU failed to eliminate unfair funding for the two Airbus models. The next stage of the 14-year battle will be over the size of the tariffs the U.S. will be allowed to impose to compensate for lost exports.

But this whole affair is far from over. Later this year, the WTO is expected to issue a final ruling in a separate case in which the EU challenged billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Boeing. The EU won the first round in that court battle. (Post)

NASA's Space Launch System program may be facing a new delay.

NASA discovered a contamination problem with tubing in part of the core stage of the first Space Launch System vehicle. According to SpaceNews, a routine inspection of the core stage being built at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans found contamination in the engine section that holds the SLS’s four RS-25 engines and associated systems.

The contaminant is paraffin wax, used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured. The prime contractor, Boeing, determined the unnamed vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes as required. The contamination was initially found in a single tube, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned.

NASA previously said it expects the core stage to be completed and shipped to Stennis Space Center, Miss., at the end of this year for a green run engine tests by mid-2019. (Post)

-- NASA has announced some leadership changes at Stennis Space Center. John Bailey will assume the role of associate director following the retirement of Ken Human, effective May 31.

Bailey, a native of Mobile, Ala., and resident of Picayune, Miss., previously served as Stennis Engineering and Test Directorate director. Human, a resident of Covington, La., has served almost 40 years with NASA and was named as Stennis associate director in 2010. Bailey will be succeeded as director of the Engineering and Test Directorate by Joe Schuyler, who has served as the department deputy since 2016. (Post)

Economic development
Another MRO is coming to the region.

Gov John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said Citadel Completions LLC will make a $17.6 million investment and hire more than 250 people for an aircraft center for interior jet modifications and maintenance at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, three west of New Orleans along Interstate 10.

The company estimates the new jobs will have an average annual salary of $80,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 347 indirect jobs. Hiring for the project is underway, with Citadel Completions expecting to begin operations by the third quarter of 2018. (Post)

One of the newest MRO in the region, VTMAE in Pensacola, will be opening this summer.

The Air Force trying to determine how best to acquire more PGU-14 ammunition, currently made by Orbital ATK, for the A-10. Its existing bullet inventory, some 32 years old, is beginning to age out, said Bob DuPont of the 780th Test Squadron's guns and missiles department at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

It is unknown if the Air Force will stick with 30mm depleted-uranium bullets or if it will switch to a tungsten round. Depleted uranium is used for its ability to pierce armored vehicles, as it is 60 percent more dense than lead. Tungsten is comparable to uranium but a bit less dense, so manufacturers must balance out the weight to match today's PGU-14 rounds, which weigh roughly 14 ounces each.

The service is reaching out to the defense industry to see if adding a mix of alloy samples will allow tungsten to meet requirements. DU PGU-14 bullets are tested every two years on the base's northern range in a controlled fire exercise, required by the Pentagon for the ammo to be recertified for use in combat. (Post)

-- The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Rucker, Ala., was among five installations to win the 2018 Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence. Fort Rucker in South Alabama is the primary flight training base for Army aviators.

The awards recognize the outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain U.S. military installations. The five recipients were selected for their exemplary support of Department of Defense missions.

The other bases to be recognized are Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin, Calif. (Post)

-- Four AC-130U Spooky gunship crews with the 4th Special Operations Squadron were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for four separate engagements in Afghanistan spanning less than one year. Twenty-four airmen were awarded the honors during a May 11 ceremony. Three airmen were unable to attend. The DFC is awarded to any officer or enlisted personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves in combat aerial operations. (Post)

-- The Snowbirds flight demonstration team, Canada’s 431st Air Demonstration Squadron, made a rare appearance at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., during the week. The visit to the home of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team, included practice sessions opened to the public. The Blue Angels practice schedule was modified to accommodate both teams. The Snowbirds use CT-114 Tutors, a Canadian-built jet. (Post)

The grand opening ceremony for the Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James Museum and Flight Academy in Pensacola, Fla., is scheduled for June 7 at 10 a.m. The city-owned site is the historic home of America's first African-American four-star general, Daniel "Chappie" James Jr., and was donated to the city by the family.

The residence, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1909 by James’ father, Daniel James Sr., and is located at 1608 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Community Redevelopment Agency restored the original 900 square-foot home to house a museum.

A new 1,500 sq. foot addition is now the home of the flight academy, which has been offering young people of Pensacola opportunities to train to be aviators for over two decades through their free one-week summer camps. The Flight Academy's classrooms, which are to be equipped with computers and flight simulator programs, will have its first summer camp at the new location June 11-16, 2018. (Post)

L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $42.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for the organizational and depot level logistics services required to support and maintain the TH-57 fleet. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in November 2018. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp., Atlanta, has been awarded a $25.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for an increase in the indefinite delivery/indefinite-quantity ceiling. This modification provides for research, analysis, integration, systems engineering, development, flyable and non-flyable technology demonstrators, prototypes, test and evaluation, and rapid delivery of cutting-edge weapon solutions to the Department of Defense to counter emerging threats affecting national security. Work will be performed in Atlanta and is expected to be complete by December 2020. Air Force Research Laboratory, Munitions Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $45 million advance acquisition contract for long-lead materials components, material, parts, and associated efforts required to maintain the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system planned production schedule. Work will be done in California, West Virginia, Maryland, Utah, Texas, Ohio and various locations in the continental U.S. and locations outside the continental U.S., and is expected to be completed in January 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Northrop Grumman does fuselage work on the Triton in Moss Point, Miss. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $24 million for a modification to a previously awarded contract for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Verification Simulation F-35 In-A-Box (FIAB) Phase II for delivery of the FIAB software model, software license fees, and continued FIAB software model development, integration, and support. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and Marietta, Ga., and is expected to be completed in September 2018. 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. … The Boeing Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $16.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the exercise of an option for BLU-127 warhead cases. This contract modification provides for the procurement of BLU-127 warhead cases, and brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $37,151,052. Work will be performed in St. Louis and is expected to be complete by July 31, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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