The crowd gathered at the Springfield-Beckely Municipal Airport on clear afternoon in May and eagerly watched the sky for BETA Technologies ALIA aircraft.
The white aircraft emerged across the horizon and landed at the airport, followed by a larger chase plane. It represented the fifth leg of the aircraft's first cross-country flight, believed to be the first for an eVTOL. Springfield, BETA Technologies said, already felt like home.
The Third Evolution of flight takes off where aviation was born
“In the two and half years since the Air Force announced its Agility Prime effort focused on advanced air mobility, we’ve gone from trying to grasp the concept of an eVTOL to having them fly in the skies above this airport,” President and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition Jeff Hoagland said in August at the groundbreaking of the National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence (NAAMCE) “We are witnessing history.”
The groundbreaking took place on the second day of the Inaugural National Advanced Air Mobility Industry Forum. The forum showcased Ohio’s collaborative aviation ecosystem and strong supply chain, with speakers from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, along with representatives of leading AAM companies BETA Technologies, LIFT Aircraft, and Joby Aviation. Exhibitors included representatives of the region’s resources for research and development, aerospace manufacturing, and workforce development.
Nearly a decade ago, the DDC and its partners laid the foundation for the important Agility Prime and eVTOL research and development being done in Springfield today. The region continued to explore opportunities to leverage the exciting new technology, meet with companies, and work with Air Force on ways to support the emerging UAS industry.
Working in partnership, the state and AFRL opened the skies to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight.
In 2019, The Federal Aviation Administration granted AFRL a certificate of authorization to fly and test unmanned aircraft and other advanced aerospace technologies BVLOS within a 225-square-mile airspace around the airport. Located at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, SkyVision is a beyond-visual-line-of-site range operated in partnership with AFRL and the state of Ohio Department of Transportation.
When AAM began to emerge, that airspace created the perfect environment for companies to test their aircraft.
Investing in AAM infrastructure
A growing list of AAM companies already call Springfield, Ohio, home, and the NAAMCE will mark the nucleus of their operations. Local, state and federal leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence in August at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
The Department of Defense approved a $6 million Defense Community Infrastructure grant to support the establishment of NAAMCE, adding to the inventory of properties supporting the growth of Ohio’s Advanced Air Mobility industry.
The facility will include a one-story, 30,000-square-foot office building that can house administrative, laboratory, meeting, and space, with 25,000 square feet of aircraft hangar space, for the Air Force and private industry. The center will support the expanding work of manufacturers of eVTOLs and other vehicles used for Advanced Air Mobility.
Sites primed to take off
NAAMCE will be a short taxi from Airpark Ohio, a newly authenticated SiteOhio property ready for AAM investment. The Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport is home to SkyVision, an air traffic control system for unmanned aircraft, and the gateway to 200 square miles of airspace allowing BVLOS flight.
SiteOhio is a one-of-a-kind site evaluation program offered by JobsOhio, Ohio’s private, non-profit economic development corporation. The program goes beyond the common certified site process and puts properties with industrial zoning through a more stringent and comprehensive review and analysis. SiteOhio authentication guarantees that all utilities are on the property and have adequate capacity, that due diligence studies have been completed, and that all state and federal entities have provided concurrence with the studies.
In February, JobsOhio awarded the airport a $226,000 grant from its Ohio Site Inventory Program (OSIP) for infrastructure work to support charging stations and flight simulators for eVTOL vehicles near the center’s future site. The NAAMCE will allow their operations to expand and provide space for additional companies to establish operations.
Come here to test, stay here to build
The Dayton region offers many advantages for companies involved in advanced air mobility R&D and testing, from its proximity to Wright Patterson Air Force Base and housing the Ohio Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center to its collaborative environment and its well-educated, highly skilled workforce. The region also has a strong advanced manufacturing sector, especially in the automotive and aerospace industries, which means companies don’t have to leave Dayton when it’s time to begin building their newest innovation.
The regional manufacturing sector includes Honda of America and Crown Equipment Corp., and includes dozens of suppliers to the automotive, aerospace and defense industries, including companies that make propellers, powertrains, advanced sensors, avionics, antilock brakes, landing gear, glass windshields, diesel engines, flight controls and more.