Saturday, April 13, 2019

Week in review (4/7 to 4/13)

Alabamians voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, and are probably among his most ardent supporters. That’s unlikely to change, but that support may come more grudgingly, at least in Southwest Alabama, if the president’s plan to impose $11.2 billion in tariffs on imports from the European Union comes to pass.

That’s because the targeted items include the aircraft sections that are shipped from Europe and used in Mobile to assemble the A320 series of jetliners. What it might do to the Mobile operation should the tariffs happen is unclear, but it will no doubt benefit Airbus rival Boeing.

The call for tariffs comes at a time when Boeing is under a spotlight over the crash of two 737 Max jetliners within a five-month span that killed more than 350 people. Both crashes were traced to a problem with sensors on the nose of the planes.

Pilots for years have relied on sensors to warn them of dangerous stalls. But in the Boeing Max the sensors go beyond warning and force the nose down automatically. A review of public databases by Bloomberg News shows that since the early 1990s, there are at least 140 instances of sensors on U.S. planes being damaged by equipment on the ground or bird strikes.

While Boeing is working on a fix, its Max planes have been grounded. So the tariffs are, for Boeing, a bit of good news. At least for the time being, because the EU is planning its own retaliation.

Airbus and Boeing compete for industry dominance. Both sides have been judged by the World Trade Organization to have paid billions in subsidies to gain advantage, and have been asked to stop or face potential sanctions.

In Brussels during the week, European Union countries gave initial clearance to start formal trade talks with the United States. Both sides have won partial victories at the WTO but disagree on the amount involved and whether each has complied with earlier WTO rulings.

According to Reuters, the European Commission has drawn up a list of U.S. imports worth around $22.6 billion that it could hit with tariffs over the transatlantic aircraft subsidy dispute, EU diplomats said Friday.

The final amount decided by the WTO arbitrator could also be lower. The EU had also initially requested that the WTO authorize countermeasures of $12 billion.

The arbitrator’s decision may not come before March 2020. In the U.S. case a WTO decision could come in June or July this year.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last living member of the WWII bombing mission by the Doolittle Radiers, died April 9 in Texas at the age of 103. Cole was one of 80 Army Air Corps personnel that volunteered for the mission, a team led by then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle to strike Japan on April 18, 1942, after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sixteen B-25 bombers launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The team trained at Eglin Field in Florida for two weeks. Damage from the raid was slight, but showed that Japan was not beyond the reach of American air power. Seven of the raiders lost their lives in the mission. Cole bailed out of the B-25 after the raid while trying to reach a landing site in China.

He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. (Post)

-- Air Force Maj. Gen. Marc H. Sasseville has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general, and assignment as commander, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region; and commander, First Air Force (Air Forces Northern), Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sasseville is currently serving as deputy director, Air National Guard, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. (Post)

NASA conducted a successful hot fire test of an RS-25 engine during the week, the culmination of four-plus years of testing for the RS-25 engines that will send the first four Space Launch System (SLS) rockets into space.

The RS-25 rocket engine test era began Jan. 9, 2015, with a 500-second hot fire of RS-25 developmental engine No. 0525 on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis. NASA tested the first SLS flight engine on March 10, 2016.

Altogether, the agency has conducted 32 developmental and flight engine tests for a total of 14,754 seconds, all on the A-1 stand at Stennis. Having launched 135 space shuttle missions, these main engines are considered the most tested engines in the world. When the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, NASA still had 16 engines that ultimately were modified for SLS. (Post)

The Gulf Coast Reporters League/Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter for April is available at the website Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor for download.

There's a story about the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, which is piquing the interest of young people in the aerospace and aviation fields at a time that the industry is facing shortages of workers. There's also a story about the new helicopter simulators at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, near Milton, Fla., as well as an analysis on the growth of the region's aircraft assembly footprint. (Post)

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., has been awarded a $21.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator sustainment. Work will be performed in St. Louis and is expected to be complete by July 18, 2023. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $26.4 million. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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