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April 10, 2013

News Briefs April 10, 2013

U.S. fighter crashes in Gulf; crew rescued

The U.S. Navy says a fighter jet has crashed into the Persian Gulf near the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, but both crew members were rescued safely by divers.

The Navy cited engine failure on the F/A-18F Super Hornet as the reason for the April 8 crash. An investigation is underway.

The Virginia-based Eisenhower is on a scheduled deployment in the Gulf region under the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

The U.S. has expanded naval maneuvers and drone surveillance in the region to counter growing Iranian military activity. AP

France’s Lagardere sells entire stake in aerospace, defense company EADS

French media company Lagardere says it has sold its entire 7.4 percent stake in European aerospace and defense giant EADS.

EADS, the parent to plane maker Airbus, said it bought some of the shares sold, adding 1.61 percent to its holdings of its own stock.

Lagardere had previously said that a “substantial portion” of the proceeds of the sale will be distributed to shareholders. April 9, it said the shares sold for about 2.3 billion euros ($2.9 billion).

The opportunity to sell the stake came last year when France and Germany agreed to shake up EADS’ shareholding structure to reduce government influence. AP

Oshkosh to lay off 900 as military vehicle orders decline

Defense contractor Oshkosh Corp. plans to lay off 900 people this summer as military vehicle orders decline.

The Oshkosh, Wisc.,-based company says it will begin laying off 700 hourly employees in mid-June, with 200 salaried employees to be laid off by the end of July.

Company leaders say production is declining as the military continues to wind down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Oshkosh executive vice president and president of defense John Urias says while other business segments of Oshkosh and many U.S. companies were enduring layoffs during the recession, Oshkosh Defense was hiring employees. But Urias says circumstances have now changed. AP

Hard labor for Lackland AFB convicts: cleaning kennels

For five basic training instructors convicted in an Air Force sex scandal, their sentences of ìhard laborî involve cleaning the base’s dog kennels.

That’s a far cry from the perception some have of hard labor as breaking rocks with sledgehammers. But an official at Joint Air Force Base-Lackland tells the San Antonio Express-News that hard labor is designed not just to punish, but to serve the base.

Nine former Lackland instructors have been convicted in an investigation of claims that instructors pressured female trainees to have sex. Their sentences have ranged from prison to hard labor.

There are few specifics on what hard labor can mean, but soldiers at different times have been required to pick up trash, pull weeds and clean. AP

U.S. Navy clears sailors in deadly Dubai shooting

The U.S. Navy says sailors aboard an American support vessel acted within appropriate rules of engagement last year when they fired on a small boat approaching at high speed off Dubai, killing one fisherman and wounding three others.

The July 2012 incident initially brought conflicting accounts about measures taken by the USNS Rappahannock to warn the crew aboard the 50-foot fishing boat.

But a Navy report made public April 8 said warning shots and other steps were taken as the skiff approached the U.S. refueling ship.

The Navy says the smaller vessel was deemed a threat and ìuse of force was appropriate.

U.S. officials have expressed regret over the shooting, compensated the family of the Indian fisherman killed and given assistance to his three countrymen who were wounded. AP

Air Force: Series of errors led to Reaper crash in Nevada

Air Force officials say a series of errors led to the crash of an unmanned drone aircraft in December in a remote area north of Las Vegas, Nev.

A report released April 9 says the pilot didnít properly execute a preflight checklist before taking control of the drone, which stalled and crashed Dec. 5 west of Hiko in Lincoln County.

Nobody was injured in the crash, but the loss of the drone and the artillery on board was estimated at $9.6 million.

Nellis Air Force Base officials say the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft was being used in an Air Force weapons school combat training mission. It was assigned to the 57th Wing at the base.

Officials at Nellis said it wasnít immediately clear Tuesday morning whether anyone has been disciplined for the mishap. AP

VA withdrawing as prime sponsor of Phoenix parade

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system in Phoenix, Ariz., no longer plans to be a prime sponsor providing support for the Veterans Day parade in Phoenix.

According to the Arizona Republic, VA spokesman Paul Coupaud says the decision stems from liability concerns and manpower issues.

Coupaud cites a multi-fatality accident involving a veterans parade in Texas and a need to focus s on delivering health care.

Katherine Brooks of Honoring Arizona’s Veterans says the decision is surprising and a blow to efforts to successfully stage the parade. The nonprofit runs the parade.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley says some may consider the decision as retaliation against a VA employee who coordinated the parade.

Coupawd says Paula Pedene’s situation has nothing to do with it. AP

Audit sparks concern over NASA center in Ohio

A NASA inspector general’s audit says five NASA testing facilities in Ohio are under-used and potentially expendable.

That has some northern Ohio officials worried about the future of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and its Sandusky annex that include testing facilities.

The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland reports that the five facilities are among at least 33 NASA technical sites nationwide that the recent inspector general’s report labeled as outdated, redundant or lacking a clear future purpose.

Business and political leaders worry that any loss of its facilities could weaken the case for continuing the Glenn center at a time when NASA is facing major budget problems.

NASA Glenn employs more than 3,300 workers and contractors in northern Ohio. AP

Rocket rolled out at NASA’s Virginia flight facility

A rocket headed to the International Space Station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one step closer to its inaugural flight.

Space technology company Orbital Sciences rolled out the first fully integrated Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad early April 6.

The Dulles, Va.-based company is getting ready for flight demonstrations of its Antares medium-class launch vehicle and Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft as part of a 1.9 billion NASA contract to deliver essential cargo to the International Space Station. NASA says the launch window for the test flight is between April 17 and 19.

In February, Orbital Sciences conducted a 29-second “hot fire” test of the rocket engine to demonstrate the readiness of the rocket’s first stage and launch pad fueling systems. AP

VA says 7,000 veterans’ identities may be compromised

Thousands of South Carolina veterans are being warned their personal information might have been compromised after a laptop went missing from the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C.

The VA says it is notifying more than 7,000 veterans that they should sign up for identity theft protection and offering them a year of free credit monitoring.

The laptop was discovered missing two months ago from a locked testing lab at Dorn’s respiratory testing department. It hasn’t been recovered, and officials say the information on it, like patients’ names, dates of birth and test results, wasn’t encrypted.

But officials also say they haven’t seen any signs that the information has been misused. AP

Boeing planning $1 billion expansion in South Carolina

Boeing is expanding in South Carolina, announcing it will invest $1 billion and create 2,000 new jobs over the next eight years.

Company spokeswoman Candy Eslinger April 9 confirmed the expansion at the company’s $750 million 787 assembly plant in North Charleston. The first 787 made in South Carolina rolled off the assembly line a year ago.

News of the expansion was first reported by The Post and Courier.

Eslinger says that the company is committed to the investment to qualify for economic development incentives being proposed this week in the state General Assembly.

The newspaper reported House Speaker Bobby Harrell and state Sen. Hugh Leatherman plan to introduce legislation Tuesday providing $120 million to offset Boeing’s upfront expansion costs, like site preparation and utility expenses. AP

Aircraft repair company to operate in Dothan, Ala.

A Miami-based aircraft repair and maintenance company will open a new plant at the Dothan Regional Airport in Dothan, Ala., that will employ hundreds of people in southeast Alabama, officials said April 5.

Commercial Jet Inc. will invest $12 million to open a new, 400,000-square foot facility at the airport, where a similar company, Pemco, operated before shutting down in 2012.

Officials including Gov. Robert Bentley announced the project after the city’s airport authority approved a lease and incentives for Commercial Jet, which maintains and modifies several models of commercial and military aircraft.

The complex will include multiple hangars, shops, stores and offices. Construction has already started, and the final building should be finished in October.

Commercial Jet plans to hire several hundred experienced aircraft technicians in the area within a few years, said John Schildroth, vice president and general manager for the Dothan facility.

ìWe are already getting a flow of new orders for our new facility, which will be open for business as soon as May of this year,î Schildroth said in a statement.

The Dothan Eagle reported that the airport authority approved a construction contract for more than $13 million on the property. The authority will receive a $7.6 million industrial development grant and sell about $6 million in tax-exempt bonds to pay for the remainder.

The new plant will more than triple Commercial Jet’s capacity to work on airplanes. The company currently has a 100,000-square foot hangar at Miami International Airport.

The announcement was a boost to the state’s aircraft industry, which includes a new Airbus plant in Mobile.

Bentley this week signed a new law that makes it more difficult to sue aircraft companies in Alabama by setting a time limit for lawsuits against airplane manufacturers and suppliers. The governor’s office said the law would not apply to Commercial Jet since it isn’t a manufacturer. AP

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