07/09/10 — Proposal to build Air Force's new tanker heads to Washington

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Proposal to build Air Force's new tanker heads to Washington

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 9, 2010 1:46 PM

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Troy Herring

AAR Cargo Systems vice president and general manager Vincent Misciagna, right, is given an informational poster concerning plans for the KC-45 tanker by Sam Adcock, EADS North America senior vice president for governmental relations, during a conference at the AAR complex in Goldsboro.

AAR Cargo Systems stands to benefit in profit and job growth should EADS North America win the bidding war with Boeing for a $40 billion to $50 billion contract to build the Air Force's next generation tanker aircraft.

The first contract for 179 aircraft runs for 17 years and the Air Force plans to eventually replace all of its 500 tankers -- contracts that could top $100 billion. The Air Force plans to start the first contract Nov. 12.

The contract could support up to 1,500 jobs in North Carolina and 48,000 across the country, and AAR, a partner of more than 20 years with EADS, would be one of 200 companies involved in the project.

Thursday morning EADS and AAR management were joined by local leaders and AAR employees for a rally to support the submission of EADS's proposal.

"The proposals will be submitted today. In fact, four hours north of here on I-95 right now EADS North America personnel are loading the aircraft," Sam Adcock, EADS North America senior vice president for governmental relations, told the crowd. "We have a proposal that is being submitted to Wright Patterson Air Force Base of about 8,000 pages. You stack it up and it measures about three and a half feet tall. It is a huge undertaking."

AAR would manufacture the internal cargo system for the tanker.

"In addition to its main role as a refueling airplane, it is going to carry cargo and the ability to load and unload cargo -- and the system that restrains that, maintains that cargo in the hold is the entire product that we provide both military as well as commercial variants," said Vin Misciagna, AAR vice president and general manager. "I think this would increase jobs. How many, the exact number, is really difficult to say at this point.

"It would definitely be an uptick in work in the plant, and we would have to staff accordingly. We have got to win it. It is a competition -- EADS is competing with Boeing. It is going to be a tough road ahead, but we are excited."

Adcock said AAR systems are already in numerous aircraft and that when the company's name is mentioned a "light goes off" about the quality of its products regardless of the country.

AAR is a favored supplier of EADS, Airbus and Airbus military, he said.

Misciagna said AAR is part of a fast-growing global aero-defense company whose customers include commercial airlines, aircraft manufacturers and all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The Goldsboro plant is one of 60 locations in 13 countries around the world.

"A little more than four years ago there was little here but a dirt floor and four walls," he said. "We looked at 48 states and 52 different buildings before deciding on Goldsboro and Wayne County. We established operations here in April of 2006 and today have created jobs for nearly 300 Americans.

"AAR now contributes in excess of $15 million a year in terms of total impact on the Goldsboro economy. We continue to look at Goldsboro as a place that we can grow our business due largely to the excellent, business-friendly climate and skilled labor force that is available."

In addition to jobs, the employees contribute to many local civic and charitable projects, he said.

"When AAR came to Wayne County, it took a chance on Wayne County and Wayne County took a chance on AAR," County Commission Chairman Jack Best said. "It has been a good thing for both of us. If EADS gets the tanker contract, it will mean a lot to AAR solidifying its business in Goldsboro, and it will really mean something to the citizens of Wayne County."

Wayne County Develop-ment Alliance Chairman Keith Gunnett told the audience that two great companies were working together to contribute to both the vitality of the community and nation's defense.

"We all know what makes Wayne County the premier destination for leading business, especially for the defense industry -- strong economic base, superior logistics, a large and skilled work force and most importantly, a great quality of life," he said.

Aycock said Thursday's event, which included tours of the plant and a meal, was an opportunity to thank the community and to share the bid process with the public and local leaders.

"Today is a big day," he said. "There is a lot at stake and not just for the companies that are proposing. There is a lot at stake for the U.S. Air Force men and women who live this mission every day. They are flying very old airplanes that are approaching 50 years average.

"It is also high stakes for us. This is a lot of money, a lot of time and effort that is gone into this. I personally started working this program in 2001. It is a big day for us to say, 'Today we submit a proposal.' We won this competition the last time. Unfortunately there were some challenges to it. They (government) canceled that effort and now they are re-soliciting for it. We won the last one and we are hopeful that we win the next. In these economic times this is a big deal. The sky is the limit."