|Chapter I products update
It’s stunning how quickly south Alabama has become a center for jetliner
manufacturing. First there was the Airbus A320 aircraft series, making its first
delivery in 2016. And in the near future Bombardier CSeries jets will roll off a new
The CSeries, like the A320, is a narrow-body, single aisle jetliner. But it carries fewer
passengers than the Airbus lineup. It is not a direct competitor for Airbus, but does fill
a niche not covered by any Airbus model.
The CSeries is currently built in Quebec, Canada, but the additional assembly line is
needed to meet expected demand.
In addition, the region will do more nacelles work. Safran opted to produce and install
aircraft engine nacelles at a facility in Mobile, the same line of work done by a newly
expanded UTC Aerospace in Foley across the bay.
The CSeries and nacelles are not the only new products that made headlines in the
Gulf Coast region since the last Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2017-2018 was
published in June 2017.
Aerojet Rocketdyne, which already has a substantial list of rocket engines it
assembles and tests at Stennis Space Center, Miss., in early June finished assembly
of the first of two AR-22 engines for Boeing and its Phantom Express, a reusable
hypersonic, unmanned military aircraft.
Phantom Express is being built for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency’s (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane.
The program is intended to demonstrate a more routine and affordable means for
quick access to space. Phantom Express, which will take off vertically and land like a
plane, will be equipped with an expendable second stage capable of placing up to
3,000 pounds in low Earth orbit.
The AR-22 engine, derived from parts from previous versions of the Space Shuttle
Main Engine (RS-25) that remained in Aerojet Rocketdyne’s inventory, will undergo a
series of tests at SSC to demonstrate its ability to support the high flight rates
envisioned for Phantom Express.
In addition, more aerospace products will be tested at SSC. Seattle’s Stratolaunch
and California’s Relativity Space have decided to use facilities at SSC to test new
In September 2017 Stratolaunch, funded by billionaire Paul Allen, signed an
agreement to use SSC E-1 stand to test engines for its own launch vehicles for its
giant aircraft, originally designed to use by other companies.
Relativity, which aims to 3D print engines and rockets, has a 20-year deal with SSC
for exclusive use of the 25-acre E-4 Test Complex. It can test 24 hours a day, and
has an option to expand its site to 250 acres.
The newest products add to the growing list of aviation activities in the Gulf Coast I-
10 region. The area between New Orleans and Northwest Florida produces drones,
satellite propulsion systems, rocket engines, spacecraft, a small helicopter, small
aircraft engines, displays and high-tech sensors that are the eyes and ears of
machines big and small. It also develops, tests and manages the most advanced
aerial weapon systems in the world.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League, June 2018