How world events impact aerospace
The aerospace summit returns to the Interstate 10 corridor in November when
Gulfport hosts the fifth iteration of the event that will focus on the impact of world
events on aerospace...

David Tortorano
October 2016

This coastal Mississippi city known as the financial and transportation center of South
Mississippi will host the fifth summit of the four-state Aerospace Alliance next month.

It’s the first time the gathering will be held in Mississippi. Previous summits were in
Alabama, Florida and Louisiana.

The summit, a primary outreach for the non-profit, four-state aerospace group, will
be held Nov. 3-4 at the Island View Towers Hotel. As with the past gatherings, this
one is expected to attract between 175 to 200 participants, including leaders from the
Southeast and beyond.

The industry-focused summit attracts leading aerospace companies, economic
development professionals, and elected officials from communities that focus on
developing their aerospace activities. It also draws university and workforce
professionals with programs specializing in the aerospace and aviation sector.

“Navigating Change: How Will World Decisions Impact the Aerospace Industry?” is
the title of this year’s summit.

According to the Alliance, those decisions include but are in no way limited to the
United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the upcoming U.S. presidential
election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. The
election is the Tuesday after the summit.

Summit speakers and panelists will look at a variety of factors shaping the industry,
including global economic influences, opportunities around innovation, and geo-
political and defense issues.

The public/private Aerospace Alliance was formed in 2009 and announced at an
event in Bay Minette, Ala. It originally included Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and a
regional group, Florida’s Great Northwest. At the first summit in 2011 it was
announced that the state of Florida would join.

Its original purpose was to join forces to help secure the aerial tanker program for
Mobile, Ala. But at the time it was established leaders said it would remain long-term
and would focus on activities that would promote the region and the aerospace
sector.

The most high-profile activity of the Alliance might well be the pre-event galas it holds
before the air shows in London and Paris. Invitations to the event are considered hot
tickets. But closer to home, the annual summit are the most noticeable events for the
group. The inaugural event was at Sandestin Resort in Miramar Beach, Fla., in
September 2011. Subsequent summits were held in New Orleans in October 2012,
Huntsville, Ala., in October 2013, and Daytona Beach, Fla., in April 2015, the only
time it was held in the spring.

Gulfport is the site of the upcoming summit because it’s Mississippi’s turn to host the
event and the state chose Gulfport, said the Alliance’s Melissa Medley.

She said Gulfport is one of the more central locations, sitting in the middle of the four-
state I-10 aerospace region. The corridor is the one region where all four states have
a presence.

Gulfport is the central location for South Mississippi’s considerable aerospace
activities. On the eastern end in Jackson County Northrop Grumman builds the
central fuselage for all variants of the unmanned Global Hawk, and also does final
assembly of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

To the west of Gulfport is John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA’s rocket engine test
facility that’s also used by commercial companies.

Gulfport itself is home to one of the region’s commercial airports, Gulfport-Biloxi
International Airport, which also hosts the Air National Guard Combat Readiness
Training Center, one of four operated by the Air National Guard. It provides the
military with a year-round training environment, including airspace and ranges.

In any given year, thousands of pilots come to Gulfport to engage in mock combat
and hone their skills. It’s an airborne schoolhouse equipped with a state-of-the-art,
multimillion-dollar combat training system that keeps track of every move.

Gulfport is also part of the larger Gulf Coast aerospace corridor that spans a four-
state region along Interstate 10. It includes NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New
Orleans, the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., and multiple aviation-
focused military bases, including the base that develops aerial weapons for the U.S.
military.

The region is also a top military pilot training location. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.,
trains F-35 pilots and maintainers, and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., trains F-22
pilots and hosts an operational squadron.

Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilots are trained in part at Naval Air Station
Pensacola and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. Army helicopter pilots are training
at Fort Rucker, Ala., just across the state line near Dothan, Ala., and the Coast
Guard a training facility in Mobile transitions pilots to the aircraft they will be using.

But the four-state alliances has far more than the activities in the Gulf Coast region.
Two of the best know are far from the I-10 region. Florida’s Space Coast is well-
known internationally, and Huntsville, Ala., is home to the Army’s missile activity and
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Medley expects about 200 participants, adding that the summits attract a smaller but
focused group involved in aerospace.

The reception Nov. 3 is hosted by the secretaries of commerce for the member
states, and the keynote speaker will be Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor.
He’ll discuss what the U.S. election and other world decisions might mean for the
aerospace industry.

Speakers Nov. 4 include Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group, who will talk about
innovations and trends as it pertains to the future of aerospace., and Elizabeth Coffin
with United Technologies Corp., among others. There also will be a panel discussion
on what’s ahead for unmanned aerial systems and congressional and defense
priorities for aerospace.

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