Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other political leaders joined Embraer president and CEO Frederico Curado on March 26 to cut the ribbon on a 40,000-sq-ft hangar at Jacksonville International Airport that Embraer will use to assemble the A-29 Super Tucano for the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support (LAS) program.
The Air Force awarded Embraer and its teammate Sierra Nevada, the U.S. proponent for the LAS bid, a $427 million contract on February 27 to supply 20 Super Tucanos for light air support, reconnaissance support and training of the Afghan military. The contract includes ground-based training devices, pilot and maintenance training and logistical support.
The Jacksonville facility is expected to create 50 new jobs and will perform pre-equipping, mechanical assembly, structural assembly, systems installation and flight testing of the A-29. The first delivery from the facility is planned for next summer.
The companies moved ahead with the program after the Air Force lifted a stop-work order on March 15. The service ordered the suspension four days earlier in response to a protest filed by losing contractor Beechcraft with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It was Beechcraft’s second such challenge; the company protested the original LAS contract award made to Embraer and Sierra Nevada in December 2011, causing the Air Force to reevaluate the bids. “The Competition in Contracting Act provides for such actions, called overrides, when it is determined to be in the best interests of the United States or unusual and compelling circumstances will not permit waiting for the GAO’s decision,” the service said in a statement. The override does not affect the 100-day period the GAO has to render a decision on the protest.
Embraer is expanding its footprint in Florida beyond Fort Lauderdale, its U.S. headquarters. In 2011 the company opened a production facility and customer center in Melbourne for the Phenom 100 and 300 light jets. Last year it broke ground in Melbourne for a new engineering and technology center expected to employ 200 engineers. Embraer says it currently employs 1,200 people in the U.S.
In addition to the governor, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Ander Crenshaw (R) took part in the ribbon-cutting cermony. “At a time when many companies are outsourcing, Embraer is insourcing and creating high-quality jobs right here in Northeast Florida. I commend them for this action,” Brown stated.