New Miss. taxiway helps vertical takeoff aircraft

Published 3:30 am Sunday, May 10, 2009

Northrop Grumman officials say completion of a new taxiway linking its aerospace center in Moss Point to Trent Lott International Airport means the defense contractor can begin flight testing a vertical takeoff aircraft that is used for military reconnaissance.

The Navy this week awarded Northrop a $5 million logistics support contract for the aircraft known as the Fire Scout, which resembles a helicopter. The contract includes options for three additional years that will total $19 million and is the first step to a long-term maintenance program.

Northrop builds the Fire Scout and manufactures fuselages for the Global Hawk, a high-altitude unmanned reconnaissance plane, in Moss Point.

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Northrop says the work at the Moss Point airport means the Fire Scout will no longer have to be shipped to Patuxent River, Md., for testing.

Work on the 419-foot-long taxiway should be finished within two weeks.

“The taxiway to our active airfield improves safety for all our operations. It allows access for EMT and fire response,” said airport director Carol Snapp.

Bryan Mahoney, site manager for Northrop’s Unmanned Systems Center, said the airport upgrade means customers can come to Moss Point to see the Fire Scout put through testing.

The first of three Fire Scouts is slated for delivery to the Navy on June 15, he said.

Northrop has additional contracts with the Army for MQ-8Bs, and has seven such Army vehicles in various stages of completion at the center.