Selex Galileo in the right place to grow
- August 17, 2015
- / Lisa Monti
- / economy
U.S. Coast Guard C-130 sits in the hangar to be upgraded with the A1U glass cockpit.
If growth and a backlog of work are any indication, then Selex Galileo made a wise decision seven years ago when it set up shop at Stennis International Airport in South Mississippi.
For a company that works on large, loud, multi-engine military aircraft, it’s helpful to be in a place where engines can be run at any time day or night without any complaints from neighbors.
But that’s precisely what Selex Galileo can do at its two-hangar South Mississippi operation located within the massive acoustical buffer zone of NASA’s Stennis Space Center.
Workers put a new NP2000 eight-blade propeller on a C-130 as part of the Electronic Propeller Control System (EPCS) upgrade. The propeller replaces the four-blade system for much better performance.
“We can fly at night, 24/7 all year long,” said site director Tommy Ruiz. “There are no noise issues. I can run engines at 2 o'clock in the morning.”
And when you’re a growing operation with a backlog of business, that kind of flexibility is a good thing.
Selex Galileo Inc. opened its aircraft modification operation in a leased hangar at Stennis International Airport, just outside Stennis Space Center in the town of Kiln in 2008 for a contract to modify U.S. Coast Guard aircraft.
Business at the South Mississippi location has been growing ever since, and so has its footprint at the Hancock County-owned airpark, said Ruiz.
“In 2012 we expanded and built an additional large facility capable of supporting two cargo aircraft at the same time. More recently, we leased the new fixed base operator hangar from the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission for some of the smaller aircraft modifications,” Ruiz said.
“We have also custom-built a state-of-the-art support facility that is used for training operations, as well as an emergency response center,” he said.
Selex Galileo is just one of the big aerospace companies with operations in Hancock County. Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Rolls-Royce have facilities at Stennis Space Center.
Italy’s Finmeccanica, one of the world’s top 10 aerospace and defense companies, owns Selex Galileo. It’s part of Selex ES, which has major facilities in Italy and the United Kingdom. The aircraft modification business is new to the company, which entered into the market less than 10 years ago.
Selex Galileo’s primary focus at the Stennis International Airport/Airpark is avionics systems integration on various types of legacy aircraft. “We put in a new radar or sensor, or a communications system so the aircraft has increased capability to perform whatever mission it has,” Ruiz said.
Depending on the customer’s needs, employees can perform every step of the upgrade process, from design and manufacture to installation and testing.
“In addition, we have a state-of-the-art training facility where customers come in and perform real-time missions,” he said. It also serves as a self-contained emergency response center in case of hurricanes.
The airpark portion of the airport is within the acoustical buffer zone that surrounds NASA’s Stennis Space Center. NASA acquired the land in the 1960s when the space center was built to test Saturn V rockets for the Apollo lunar landing program.
In addition to allowing work at all hours, another benefit of the location is its international status, which makes it convenient for foreign customers to fly in and out.
U.S. CORPORATE HQs: Arlington, Va.
LOCAL OPERATION: Selex Galileo Inc.
LOCATION: 7095 Roscoe-Turner Rd.,Kiln, Miss. 39556
NO. OF LOCAL WORKERS: not available
FOCUS AREAS: aircraft modification; avionics systems integration; special operations training; disaster recovery
TYPES OF WORKERS: technicians, engineers
EMPLOYMENT INFORMATION: 228-467-2000; www.selexgalileo.com; or e-mail [email protected]
NOTE: Finmeccanica also owns DRS Training & Control Systems, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
“It doesn’t have commercial traffic, just private or military aircraft, and accessibility is good ... It’s a prime location with the county’s harbor and rail access.”
Ashley Edwards, executive director of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, said Selex Galileo is “exactly the type of high-tech aerospace industry that we want in Hancock County,” a major asset and world leader in the maintenance, repair and overhaul segment of the aerospace and aviation sector.
“Their presence in Hancock County has allowed us to market ourselves to other firms who work in synergy with Selex. They have served as a central puzzle piece in our ongoing effort to build a successful MRO cluster in Hancock County.”
A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 sits in the hangar to be upgraded with the A1U glass cockpit. Here is a view of the the cockpit after the modification.
Aircraft modification work can take one or two months, but some jobs can require almost a year.
“We do about 15 aircraft a year today, but could easily handle up to 35 depending on the size and scope of the modifications and aircraft availability,” he said.
Most of the aircraft are for military customers, but Selex has commercial customers as well. “If it flies, I’ll work on it,” he said.
The number of technicians and engineers working at Selex fluctuates with contracts and the scope of work. The company does not release employment numbers, but said that most come from the Gulf Coast area.
“We have found a significant skill set in the area,” Ruiz said, “in part because of nearby Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and neighboring Stennis Space Center.”
Ruiz said Selex works with nearby schools to develop curriculum that will help ensure workers for the future.
“I have had numerous visits from classes from Hancock High School where we explain what we do and what you need to learn in order to work on aircraft,” he said.
Selex often relies on the numerous local machine and fabrication shops to produce the upgrade kits. “I’ve been surprised at the number of them in this area,” Ruiz said. Spreading the work around helps Selex keep costs down and it provides an economic boost to the nearby communities.
Ruiz said his current focus is providing customers the type of systems they want in their aircraft. “We have a nice backlog over the next couple of years, but we are focusing now on our delivery and execution to make sure what we deliver is produced with quality and on time,” he said.
Another challenge is keeping up with rapid changes in technology. “How fast is that technology train moving?” he said. “The technology in this world today, especially in the aerospace industry, is changing really on a daily basis. By the time we are installing it, they already have options to upgrade.”
As technology continues to evolve, Selex will work to maintain its competitive edge. “We’ve done a lot of radar and sensor modifications over the last couple of years and in the future we are looking at upgrading cockpits to touch screen displays for better crew comfort and awareness,” Ruiz said.