Saturday, June 29, 2019

Week in review (6/23 to 6/29)

The shipment of Space Launch System test articles from Michoud to Huntsville; a new commander for Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing; the release of a draft environmental assessment for bringing new training helicopters to Whiting Field; the loss of some state money for the expansion of the ST Engineering campus; and FAA money for some local airports were among the Gulf Coast aerospace stories during the week.

Here’s your week in review:

The last of four structural test articles for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) was loaded onto NASA's Pegasus barge Wednesday at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

The barge will deliver the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank structural test article to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for structural testing.

The LOX tank is one of two propellant tanks in the rocket's core stage that will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help send Artemis 1, the first flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and SLS, to the Moon.

The nearly 70-foot-long test article is structurally identical to the flight version. SLS is being developed to send astronauts back to the Moon and beyond. (Post)

-- NASA selected 363 proposals from small businesses and research institutions across 41 states to help advance the types of capabilities needed for future missions. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards have a value of some $45 million.

They include seven SBIR projects and two STTR projects tied to Stennis Space Center, Miss. More than 20 percent of the businesses are from underrepresented communities, including minority and women-owned businesses. (Post)

The Navy released a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) detailing the impact of a new training helicopter to replace the TH-57. The Advanced Helicopter Training System, called TH-XX while the Navy considers bidders for the contract, will provide 130 newer, more capable, more reliable helicopter and training system to Training Air Wing 5 and would meet the advanced helicopter and intermediate tilt-rotor training requirements through 2050.

The new helicopter will require an additional 33 training personnel at Whiting Field. The replacement helicopter has not yet been determined, but will be a commercially available helicopter.

Training will transition to the TH-XX beginning in 2021 and completed by 2025. Training operations would generally be similar to existing training. However, there would be an increase in the number of annual flight operations, to include training involving night vision device training, flying in formation at night, and search and rescue. (Post)

-- The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., welcomed a new commander June 18. Col. Jon Wheeler took over as the newest Nomad One from Col. Paul Moga, who heads to an air staff position at the Pentagon. Wheeler had been one of only 10 fighter pilots selected to serve in the inaugural cadre of F-35 instructor pilots at the 33rd FW. (Post)

-- A new Fat Albert C-130 was chosen for the Pensacola-based U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The Navy awarded a $29.7 million contract to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense for a Royal Air Force C-130J Super Hercules. The Navy said purchasing the used British aircraft as the new Fat Albert is about $50 million less than the cost of a new aircraft. (Post)

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $131 million of proposed spending from this year's budget, including $1.5 million for the expansion of the ST Aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul campus at Pensacola International Airport.

ST Engineering already has one hangar at the airport, but the $210 million project will add three additional hangars and supporting buildings. Pensacola City Administrator Chris Holley said the state has been helpful with the project, and it's hard to be critical of a veto over $1.5 million when the state came up with money from the Department of Transportation a few months back to move the project forward.

Holley said the expansion project is moving forward and is still expected to create more than 1,300 jobs when operations begin in 2022. The project has a five-year time frame for build-out, which Holley says is plenty of time to go back to the Legislature next year and present their case once again. (Post)

-- Fifteen airports in the Gulf Coast I-10 region will receive 16 airport infrastructure grants totaling $34.5 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. They were among 358 grants awarded to 327 airports in 46 states and the Pacific Islands.

In the Gulf Coast region, the largest grant went to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which was awarded $11.5 million to expand an apron and terminal building. The Mobile Downtown Airport received two separate awards, one for updating the master plan study and one to acquire equipment and rehabilitate runway 14/32. (Post)

-- In Panama City, Northwest Beaches International Airport recorded its second-highest monthly passenger total in its nine-year history in May, with 128,087 people either arriving at or departing from ECP. The only time the airport recorded more passengers in a month was last July, when 128,254 passengers either emplaned or deplaned at the facility. Last month’s passenger total was just under a 32 percent jump over the May 2018 total. (Story)

Bombardier Inc. is selling its money-losing regional jet business to Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) for $550 million in cash, in a deal marking the Canadian plane and train maker’s exit from commercial aviation.

As part of the deal, expected to close in the first half of next year, the Japanese firm will also take over a $200 million debt. Montreal-based Bombardier will continue to assemble its regional jet planes (CRJ), but will stop making the aircraft in the second half of 2020 after it finishes delivering its remaining orders.

Bombardier last year agreed to make Airbus a majority partner in a partnership that builds the A220, the former Bombardier CSeries. A new production line is being built in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

United Technologies Corp., Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $358.5 million modification to a previously awarded advanced acquisition contract. This modification provides for eight initial spare F135-PW-100 propulsion systems and one initial spare F135-PW-600 propulsion system for the Global Spares Pool, including initial spare modules and initial spare parts. Work will be performed in East Hartford (93%); Indianapolis, Ind. (6%); and Bristol, United Kingdom (1%), and is expected to be completed in June 2022. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Source: DoD, 06/28/19). Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. … Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $15.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF). The contract modification is to make changes to the AEHF Mission Planning Element software to provide capability improvements. Work will be performed at Sunnyvale and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2020. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity. Work on the AEHF core propulsion system is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … Med-Eng LLC., Ogdensburg, N.Y., was awarded an $11.5 million modification from a previously awarded contract for the delivery of a full bomb suit ensemble and associated accessories for explosive ordinance disposal personnel. Work will be performed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and is expected to be completed by March 2023. The 772d Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Innovative Technologies International Inc., Lynchburg, Va., was awarded a $7 million contract for Katana Hardware Fabrication effort. The contract provides for concept design analysis and advanced fabrication capabilities to rapidly manufacture products meeting specific characteristics through a partnering arrangement by fulfilling research, development, test and evaluation requirements for Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with organization-specific tasks. Work will be performed at Lynchburg and is expected to be completed by June 25, 2024. The Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Week in review (6/9 to 6/22)

We've had a lot of aerospace news since I last wrote my column on June 8. I took a break from the column so we could go to our grandson's wedding. So let's get right to it.

California-based Relativity announced June 11 that it will build 3D rockets at Stennis Space Center, Miss., a decision that will create 200 jobs for an investment of $59 million.

Relativity secured an agreement with NASA and an incentive package from the Mississippi Development Authority to expand facilities and infrastructure at the space cener. Relativity will build and integrate a robotic 3D printing rocket factory and an expanded testing facility to produce Relativity's Terran 1 rocket launch vehicles.

The agreement with NASA includes exclusive use of 220,000 square feet within building 9101 for a nine-year lease. The facility includes an 80-foot high bay, multiple bridge cranes, and extensive industrial infrastructure. The agreement also includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years.

Relativity’s partnership with the MDA is supported by a significant cost reimbursement and tax incentive package for Relativity's employment and capital investments for advanced aerospace manufacturing and technology development in the state. Relativity will be building out first stage assembly, engine integration and testing, and a full 3D printing and robotics-enabled production line at the site.

With the expansion at Stennis, Relativity is increasing infrastructure fourfold to over 280,000 square feet of operations, production, testing, and launch facilities and is on track to reach over 350,000 square feet of space in 2019. In the past year, the company increased team size over 6 times from 14 to 90 employees. (Post)

The first large aircraft components for the first A220 that will be built in Mobile have been delivered to the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. The major component assemblies (MCAs) are the aft fuselage and cockpit, which arrived by truck.

Wings, vertical and horizontal tail planes, tail cones and landing gear will arrive in coming weeks. Aircraft production is scheduled to begin in the next couple of months, even as construction on some of the A220-specific buildings on the campus continues over the next year. Employees for the new A220 production line will be returning from training in Mirabel, Canada in time for production start. Hiring for A220 and A320 production is continuing. (Post)

-- Delta Air Lines has ordered five additional A220-100 aircraft, bringing to 95 the total number of orders placed, including both the A220-100s and A220-300s. The airline is the first to select the new increased maximum takeoff weight option for its entire fleet from 2020.

Airbus announced in May that it would increase the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) for the A220. The new MTOW will increase the maximum range capabilities. Delta was the U.S. launch customer for the A220, placing an initial order for 75 aircraft in 2016 and booking an additional 15 in December 2018.

With this latest order, Delta’s orders total 45 A220-100s and 50 A220-300s. Delta’s A220-100s are produced in Mirabel, Qu├ębec, Canada, while the A220-300s will be built at a new U.S. assembly plant now under construction in Mobile, Ala., adjacent to the existing Airbus A320 assembly facility. (Post)

United Technologies and Raytheon are joining forces in one of the biggest corporate mergers of 2019. They agreed to combine in an all-stock deal they termed a "merger of equals." The new company would have annual revenue of about $74 billion.

Under the terms of the deal, United Technologies shareholders would own 57 percent of the combined company, with Raytheon shareholders owning the rest.

UTC is an industrial conglomerate, and makes everything from jet engines to elevators. It owns the Pratt & Whitney engine maker as well as Collins Aerospace. Raytheon is rooted in defense, and produces missile defense systems and cybersecurity solutions. Both companies are Airbus and Boeing suppliers.

The combined company will be named Raytheon Technologies Corporation and based in Boston. It will be second in size to Boeing in the U.S. and tied for third in the world with Airbus. UTC and Raytheon have almost no overlap, with most units likely being able to stay more or less as-is. One of UTC's three companies is Collins Aerospace, which does jet engine podding work in Foley, Ala. It has 1,100 employees. (Post)

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) and Andrews Research and Educations Foundation (AREF) have announced partnership to conduct research projects together. They signed an agreement to collaborate on human-performance research.

IHMC and AREF will share office and lab spaces at their Pensacola and Gulf Breeze facilities. The scientists and doctors will collaborate on research into area ranging from optimizing physical and cognitive performance to developing technologies aimed at helping high-performing humans like professional athletes, astronauts and fighter pilots.

They'll work together to study ways to help human movement, vision and reaction in extreme environments. Immediate plans include IHMC and AREF personnel working together on current ongoing research projects as well as developing proposals for future projects and grants. (Post)

Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2019-2020 was published June 11 and is available for download at our website. The 100-page reference book has chapters on aircraft assembly and maintenance in the central part of the corridor, military aviation, space activities, education, airports and a summary of aerospace activities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. The book can be found on the homepage, which takes you to a page where the entire book or individual chapters can also be downloaded. In addition, the June issue of the bimonthly Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter is available for download at the same website. The eight-page bimonthy in this issue summarizes the content of the just-released book.

Management Services Group Inc., doing business as Global Technical Systems, Virginia Beach, Va., was awarded a $20 million contract for Mid-Size Munitions (MSM) technology effort. Work will be performed at Virginia Beach and is expected to be completed by June 17, 2024. The Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. ... Advanced Concepts and Technologies International LLC, Waco, Texas, was awarded a $7.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the 505th Training Group academic and training support. Work will be performed primarily at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as well as various other locations worldwide, and is expected to be complete by June 9, 2020. Air Combat Command Acquisition Management and Integration Center, Hurlburt Field, is the contracting activity.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Week in review (6/2 to 6/8)

Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2019-2020, the seventh edition of our reference book, will publish next week. The six-chapter, 100-page book provides an update of aviation activities in the Interstate 10 region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida.

The last issue was published in 2017, and the two years since then has seen a lot of activity, including a second passenger jet assembly line in Mobile, an expansion of the maintenance, repair and overhaul campus in Pensacola and a number of new aerospace and aviation education and training programs.

Much of the reference book involves updating numbers from the previous issue, like the replacement value of the military properties in the Gulf Coast region. We also have updated figures for the number of contracts and value of those contracts in each of the counties and parishes in our coverage area.

We have one chapter that highlights the fast-growing Mobile-Pensacola metro areas in the center of the corridor, where we have two overlapping clusters, one for aircraft manufacturing and the other aircraft maintenance. It’s the hot-spot for aviation jobs, with more than 2,000 that will be needed in the next couple of years.

Our chapter on military aviation details the activities at the Navy and Air Force bases that dot the region, and the changes that are resulting from the pounding Tyndall Air Force Base took from Hurricane Michael in 2018. Among other things, the F-22 training has gone away, but the region will be getting more F-35s.

The education chapter will update the wealth of information that was published in October 2018 in the special 36-page edition of our bimonthly newsletter. Since that newsletter, several training programs have been launched to help meet the demand for workers in the aerospace industry.

Out space chapter will fill you in on our region's contribution to both government and commercial space ventures. It has information on the huge technology park NASA is eyeing for the region, and the move by one group to get an airport licensed as a spaceport.

We also have for the first time since 2014 a chapter on airports in the region. They are often the first places visitors see, and they are magnets where a lot of the aerospace and aviation development is taking place.

So visit our website Tuesday and download a PDF copy. It’s free, thanks to the underwriters who support the project.

On a solemn note, this past week was the anniversary for two significant events from World War II. June 6 was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, where so many brave soldiers lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy. Some 11 months later the war in Europe was over.

June 7 was the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the turning point of the war in the Pacific. The decisive U.S. naval victory came six months after Pearl Harbor at a time when we were still not at our peak strength and badly needed a win.

World War II will always stand out in my mind. My dad was in the Army Air Corps and fought in Europe with so many others. Other relatives also served. The generation that followed owed everything to them. So I will never forget. Thank you.

Now for your week in review:

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $1.8 billion contract for continued design maturation and development of Block 4 capabilities in support of the F-35 Phase 2.3 Pre-Modernization for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps; and non-U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) participants. Work will be performed in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in August 2026. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … NASA has selected four companies to provide real property master planning (RPMP) for the agency, as needed for all 10 NASA centers. The companies are: HB&A – The Schreifer Group Joint Venture of Colorado Springs, Colo.; The Urban Collaborative of Eugene, Oregon; Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Atlanta; and Michael Baker International Inc. of Moon Township, Pa. The maximum potential value of this contract will not exceed $24 million for work that starts June 15, 2019, and extends for five years, with three one-year options.