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.

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