January 8, 2013 10:35:10 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Aurora Flight Sciences unveiled the fruits of a more-than $15 million investment Monday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new facility that attracted some of the state's leading dignitaries.
"We broke ground on this building in the summer of 2011," Aurora CEO John Langford told the gathering at the Lowndes County facility. "This happened very quickly. This was one of the first projects Gov. Phil Bryant worked on once he was sworn in. The whole thing was about a year from start to finish. This is a great credit to the state of Mississippi. Sometimes, you can't even get a project funded in a year, let alone have the project completed."
Bryant was joined by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, and Rep. Allen Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, at the ceremony.
"When John told me several years ago he was looking for a place to locate, I told him I had just the state and just the region for him to look at," Wicker said. "We were able to bring Aurora Flight Sciences to Columbus through a partnership with Mississippi State. State, local and federal is the way to get things done. It's great to be here at this new point in Aurora Flight Sciences. Our goal is jobs and job creation. At the same time, we are building a project which is going to make our men and women in uniform safer as they protect the United States of America."
Aurora Flight Sciences currently produces three lines of manned and unmanned air crafts including the Centaur, Orion and the small unmanned Skate. The Columbus operation is a fabrication and sub-assembly plant. The new 30,000-square-foot facility will be used for "high-volume aerospace manufacturing capabilities including automated fiber placement equipment, 16' x 40' autoclave, high speed 5 axis NC trim equipment and advanced 10 axis C-scan NDI equipment," according to the company.
"We are hoping to have the last piece of equipment in line by the last week in March." Langford said. "We are getting equipment from all over -- from Italy to Georgia. Currently, we have the automated fiber placement machine. It lays graphite into epoxy fiber by fiber. We hope to be able to assemble one aircraft tail assembly a day when we are fully operational."
Langford said the new facility should be operational by the end of the summer. The expansion will create an additional 50 jobs at the facility.