Saturday, January 19, 2019

Week in review (1/6 to 1/19)

Years from now people who visit the A220 assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex will be able to look at a white structural beam and read the names of many if not all of the 700 people who participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking Jan. 16.

Yup, I added my name.

The groundbreaking Wednesday for the $300 million A220 final assembly line included a fireworks display. When the line is completed, it will be the second passenger jet assembly line in the city. Mobile at that point will be the fourth largest jetliner assembly center in the world.

Work on the site that will eventually produce four A220 jets every month began prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking. The first delivery is expected in 2020. Dignitaries on hand for the event included Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders.

The A220 is the smallest member of the Airbus line of passenger jets and is the former Bombardier CSeries. Airbus took over majority interest in the program under an Airbus/Bombardier partnership. Airbus also plans to expand its A320 workforce. In total, the company expects to hire some 600 new employees over the next 18 months. (Post)

While the assembly line is being built, Airbus is seeking its first candidates to fill manufacturing positions for the new line. Positions include aircraft structure/installation mechanics, installers for aircraft cabin furnishings and aircraft electricians.

Successful candidates for all positions will participate in several weeks of training at AIDT in a combination of classroom and on-the-job training. Some candidates will also have on-the-job training in Mirabel, Canada, where the planes are currently being built.

Production on the first aircraft begins in Q3 2019. In addition to the positions for the new A220 production facility, Airbus is also hiring for similar production positions in its current A320 production facility. (Post)

In addition to all that, details have begun to emerge on the incentives that will be offered to Airbus as it builds a new jet assembly line in Mobile, including $4 million in cash from the city and an equal amount from Mobile County. Details were spelled out in project agreement on the Mobile City Council agenda. (Post)


Space
Relativity Space, a three-year-old start-up that aims to build rockets using 3D printers, announced a contract Thursday with the Air Force to build and operate a launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The five-year multi-user agreement means Relativity can begin operating out of Launch Complex 16 (LC-16), the historic location built in the 1950s and site of hundreds of American space launches.

There is no monetary exchange or lease payment to the Air Force. The agreement includes an option to extend for an exclusive 20-year term. Relativity is the fourth private company to have an orbital launch site at Cape Canaveral. The others are SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin. Relativity CEO Tim Ellis estimates the launch facilities represent more than $10 million worth of existing infrastructure.

Relativity has built one of the world’s largest 3-D printers, called Stargate, and has developed its own rocket engine, Aeon 1. Relativity has a 20-year leasing agreement with NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), Miss., to test fire its rocket engines. The contract gives Relativity access to four testing chambers at SSC.

Relativity, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., is looking for more space in L.A. It has grown from 14 employees a year ago to 60 today. (Post)

-- The government shutdown is impacting NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). Qualification testing on the SLS’s intertank and hydrogen tank will be pushed back Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It also means testing can't even begin on the hydrogen tank, which arrived at Marshall after being shipped by barge from Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

The testing to ensure rocket components can withstand harsh launch conditions has already been completed for the engine. The furlough also means NASA and Boeing employees have halted modifications to the stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss., that will hold the rocket during a test-fire of all four engines. (Post)

Late in the week SpaceFlight Insider reported that the core was loaded onto the 215-foot tall test stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Jan. 14. (Story)


Airports
Allegiant Air announced the debut of non-stop service from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) to Omaha's Eppley Airfield (OMA) and Tulsa International Airport (TUL) beginning June 6, 2019. Tracy Stage, Okaloosa County Airport Director, said the new services brings the airport's total of non-stop destinations to 30. (Post)


Military
Marine Corps Reserve Col. Leonard F. Anderson IV has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. Anderson is currently serving as the assistant wing commander, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, New Orleans, Louisiana. The nomination was among multiple nominations announced today by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan. (Post)


Contracts
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $68.9 million for delivery order 0104 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. This order provides for the design, development, documentation, integration, and test of upgrades to the U.S. Reprogramming Laboratory to execute the Mission Data (MD) programming and reprogramming mission for the F-35 Digital Channelized Receiver/Technique Generator and Tuner Insertion Program (DTIP) and non-DTIP configurations. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (65 percent); Baltimore, Md. (25 percent); and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in May 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … C4 Planning Solutions, Blythe, Ga., was awarded a maximum ceiling $45.5 million contract with a five-year ordering period and option to extend services up to six months for tactical systems support and professional engineering services for the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity. Two percent of the work will be done in New Orleans, La. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contract activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $21 million modification to the ceiling amount of the previously-awarded contract for advanced medium range air-to-air missile system improvement program software architecture and design risk reduction efforts to counter evolving threats. Work will be performed in Tucson. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Week in review (12/30 to 1/5)

The new year is here and even at this early stage I can tell you some of the aerospace and aviation activities that we'll see in the Gulf Coast region.

One of the most anticipated will be the testing of the Space Launch System core stage at Stennis Space Center, Miss. In the "green run" test, at some point all four RS-25 engines will be fired at the same time while the core is held in place at the B-2 test stand. It will be loud, that I can tell you. But when in 2019 it will occur is uncertain. The timeline keeps slipping.

But that's just one of the things to expect in 2019. We will also see the construction of a new jetliner assembly line in Mobile, Ala., this one for the Airbus A220. Mobile is already building the popular A320s at the Mobile Aeroplex, and has delivered more than 100 so far. The A220 line will deliver its first jet in 2020. There is likely to be progress as well on the tech school Airbus wants to create in Mobile.

We're also likely to see construction begin on the expanded maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) campus in Pensacola, Fla., assuming all the required funding is landed. There is one ST Engineering MRO at Pensacola International Airport, but plans are to build three more hangars.

We can also expect to see forward progress on the Whiting Aviation Park near Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla. It will also have an MRO, but this one for military aircraft. It is also likely to be a location for an aviation tech school.

You'll also see more progress in the rebuilding of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., which was hammered by Hurricane Michael in October. The Air Force now wants to base F-35s at that base near Panama City.

Those are just the most obvious things. But what I particularly like about tracking aerospace and aviation activities in the region is that there's bound to be things that will happen that are completely unexpected.

Now for a review of news items that occurred while this column was on hiatus:


Space
The huge liquid hydrogen tank that was built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility is now in north Alabama, but it is still sitting on the barge Pegasus in the Tennessee River waiting to be offloaded. The problem is, the river is still too high.

The tank was sent to Huntsville for testing as part of NASA's program to eventually return astronauts to deep space. The 149-foot-long tank, which weighs more than 100,000 pounds and is the largest ever built here, is part of the Space Launch System.

The tank is a test model that won't actually be launched. It was moved out of the New Orleans factory to the barge and traveled up the river to north Alabama. It will undergo tests at Marshall Space Flight Center designed to mimic the conditions of traveling into space. The tank holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen that along with liquid oxygen will help propel the rocket and its cargo into space. (Post)

The tank arrived in north Alabama Dec. 26, but has been tied up beside the Tennessee River waiting to be unloaded. Rain in the Southeast has swollen the river and the crew handling the tanks move to Marshall has to wait for the level to drop before the tank can be removed from the barge. (Story)


Airbus
The final assembly line hasn't been built, but orders for the new passenger jet it will produce are coming in.

JetBlue and Moxy Airlines each have firmed up orders for 60 A220-300 jetliners, all of them to be built in Mobile. The A220, the former CSeries jet, is being produced in a partnership between Airbus and Canada's Bombardier in a deal reached last year.

Construction of a new final assembly line to assemble the A220 aircraft is expected to begin later this month at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. The first plane is expected to be delivered in 2020. (Post)


MRO
Pensacola is moving ahead with the design of the next hangar of the ST Engineering campus, although full funding for the four-year project is still pending, according to Mayor Grover Robinson.

Lining up the remaining funding for the $210 million project to expand ST Engineering's maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at the Pensacola International Airport has become the top priority of Robinson's administration since taking office a month ago.

The expanded facility is expected to bring in an additional 1,325 jobs and will consist of three additional hangars similar to the one that opened in June, as well as an office, warehouse and shop buildings at the airport. (Post)


Contracts
During this column’s two-week hiatus, these are the contracts that were awarded. They are listed based on the size of the award, from largest to smallest:

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $712.5 million for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the development of advanced hardware in support of the F-35 Lightning II Technology Refresh 3 (TR3) System. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Rolls-Royce Corp., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded a $218.7 million contract action to provide intermediate and depot level maintenance and related logistics support for in-service T-45 F405-RR-401 Adour engines. Eleven percent of the work will be done in Pensacola, Fla. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity. … United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $230.1 million contract to provide testing support for the F-35 Lightning II Propulsion System Block 4 Flight Test Program for the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and the non-U.S. Department of Defense (non-U.S. DoD) participants. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. … Summit Technologies Inc., Pensacola, Fla., and Cognition LLC, Panama City, Fla., were among the companies that will compete for each order of a $168 million contract for training strategies, concepts, and products. U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Eustis, Va., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $141.4 million contract to exercise an option to a previously awarded contract for Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $99.3 million contract to procure equipment and tooling needed to increase Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile/Long Range Anti-Ship Missile production to a maximum rate where installation is required during the construction phase of the new facility. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Risk Mitigation Consulting Inc., Destin, Fla., was awarded a $95 million contract for mission assurance assessments of installation/facilities infrastructure and facility-related control systems for the Department of the Navy. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $76.6 million contract for the design, fabrication, installation, test and delivery of two F/A-18E Tactical Operational Flight trainers and two F/A-18E low cost trainers for the government of Kuwait under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Thirty percent of the work will be done in New Orleans. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $75 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification provides for non-recurring engineering in support of the incorporation of the initial Block III capability for the production of F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. Two percent of the work will be done in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … General Dynamics One Source LLC, Fairfax, Va., was awarded $45.2 million order against a previously issued General Services Administration, Government Wide Acquisition contract. This order provides a range of knowledge based and information technology support services. Five percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Naval Air 
Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $22.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract that provides sovereign data merge capabilities that ensure the integrity and protection of country unique data of participants that use the Autonomic Logistics Information systems in support of the F-35 program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., Oklahoma City, Okla., was awarded an estimated $14.4 million Option Three modification to a contract for KC-135 engineering services for sustainment. Some of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity. … BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services Inc., Rockville, Md., was awarded a $12.4 million contract modification to exercise Option One. The contract modification extends the contract term for an additional 12 months. Some of the work will be done in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Air Force Sustainment Center, Tinker Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded an $11.3 million modification to a contract for high rate compact telemetry units (HCTMs) and long laser wire harnesses. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contract activity. … DMR Consulting Inc., Panama City Beach, Fla., was awarded a $9.4 million contract for depot level repair, overhaul, and modification for the MK-105 magnetic minesweeping gear. Work will be performed in Panama City. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division is the contracting activity.