Saturday, June 16, 2018

Week in review (6/10 to 6/16)

Airbus inaugurated a fourth A320 series production line in Hamburg, Germany, during the week in a move that will help the company ramp up production of the popular single-aisle jetliner. And it could have implications for the company's production line in Mobile, Ala.

According to Reuters, the new state-of-the-art production line utilizes robots Luise and Renate – named by workers – to work alongside human workers. The new line will help Airbus deal with an eight-year order backlog.

Airbus is ramping up production of the A320 from 50 to 60 planes per month. The company has sold 8,000 of the jets with another 6,000 on order. The new final assembly line in Hamburg has a top rate of 10 aircraft per month, which it will reach by mid-2019, according to Reuters.

Luise and Renate will help to drill over 2,000 holes to join the two halves of the fuselage together, work normally done by humans. According to Reuters, they form part of a new final assembly line where the fuselage and wings are transported by automated moving tooling platforms, rather than being lowered by cranes onto fixed jigs, and where dynamic laser tracking is used to perfectly align aircraft parts.

Klaus Roewe, head of the A320 series program, told reporters in Hamburg that around one-third of the new technologies on the new final assembly line could potentially be transferred to other lines in Hamburg, France, China, and the United States - i.e., Mobile. The Mobile assembly line now produces four A320 aircraft each month.

Speaking of Mobile, Hawaiian Airlines took delivery of its first U.S.-produced A321 during the week. The jetliner is the first produced in Mobile with the new engine option, thus it's an A321neo.

It's powered by a Pratt & Whitney PW1000G high-bypass geared turbofan engine. Executives and employees from Airbus and Hawaiian, and executives from Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems witnessed the milestone delivery. (Post)

In other Gulf Coast aerospace news during the week, the June issue of the bimonthly Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter was published and is now available to readers – without charge, of course, thanks to our underwriters. This issue updates the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2017-2018, a 100-page reference book that was last published in June 2017. This newsletter fills the gap between that issue and the one we will publish in June 2019.

The current newsletter includes an executive summary highlighting new aerospace activities in the region since last year. That includes the possibility of a second assembly line in Mobile, new rocket engine work at Stennis Space Center and the opening of a new maintenance, repair and overhaul hangar in Pensacola. There's also a new F-35 reprogramming lab at Eglin Air Force Base. The newsletter includes one-page updates of each chapter from last year’s book. (Post)

In Huntsville, Ala., the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Todd May, is retiring effective July 27. May is being replaced on an acting basis by Marshall's deputy director, Joan A. "Jody" Singer.

May was first named acting director of Marshall in 2015 and then took over the position on a permanent basis. Before that, the native of Fairhope, Ala., managed the Space Launch System.

Marshall is NASA's chief center for rocket propulsion. It has more than 6,000 government and contractor workers in north Alabama and at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $503.2 million modification to a previously issued delivery order placed against basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for air vehicle initial spares, to include F-35 deployment spares packages, afloat spares packages, and associated consumables required to support the air vehicle delivery schedules for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. This modification combines purchases for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and non-DoD participants. 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. … SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., was awarded a $91.1 million contract for digital video laboratory support. The contract provides for improvement and modernization of capabilities using digital data in support of the Air Force test mission. Air Force Test Center Specialized Contracting Branch, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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