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As Flying Car Hub, Greater Dayton Hopes Business Soars

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Beta Technologies
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Beta Technologies is building a charging station like this one in Springfield with refurbished shipping containers that it will turn into offices, a conference room and kitchen.

Business at the Springfield Beckley Airport is taking off with a growing list of electric flying car companies signed on to test their aircraft. Area business leaders hope to keep the money flowing with hopes of attracting other businesses to manufacture and service the flying cars.

Thanks to efforts by the Air Force to jumpstart testing on eVTOLS (electric vehicle take-off and landing) in Springfield, as WVXU reported in December, at least four companies are establishing operations at the Springfield Beckley Airport.

  • Beta Technologies, based in Vermont, has been awarded air worthiness approval by the Air Force's Agility Prime program. eVTOLinsights.com reports, "under this contract, the Air Force will have access to the only manned, 7,000-pound class all-electric aircraft known to be flying in the world today."
  • Joby Aviation, based in California, is the top-ranked eVTOL aircraft manufacturer in the world. It just went public and is valued at $6.6 billion, bought by the founders of LinkedIn and Zynga.
  • Kitty Hawk, based in California, recently abandoned its Flyer and will concentrate on Heaviside.
  • Lift Aircraft, based in Texas, says it will be the world's first personal flying experience.

Construction

Slowly, the eVTOL part of the airport is taking shape. Airport Manager Seth Timmerman points out where everything will go. "That'll be the elevated charging station for Beta's aircraft called ALIA.  That's where the aircraft will come in and charge." 

Beta is converting refurbished shipping containers into offices, a conference room and a kitchen. Some distance away is the company's simulator. That's where former F-16 pilot Chuck "Harley" Simones is running visiting high school teachers and Air Camp students through the motions. "In conventional flight  you're an aircraft, so you push forward. The nose gets down which means the trees get bigger."

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Former F-16 pilot Chuck "Harley" Simones with Beta Technologies is showing off the simulator to teachers and Air Camp students.

Simones explains the ALIA aircraft, which isn't in Springfield right now, is designed after the Arctic Tern, a bird known for its long migration.

UPS recently bought 10 Beta eVTOLS for transportation of packages in rural areas.

Timmerman says Joby's simulator will get to Springfield in July. Five more companies might be coming to Springfield by the end of the year.

What This Could Mean For Greater Dayton

Elaine Bryant is managing director of the Military Federal Sector for JobsOhio and executive vice president for aerospace and defense for the Dayton Development Coalition.

She calls eVTOL the third revolution in flight, behind the manned flights with the Wright brothers and the jet engine. "We have three of the biggest names right now for this industry coming here, not only to work on their own but also to collaborate and to really make this the center of excellence that it is," says Bryant.

"Manufacturing is definitely a big end game for us," says the Dayton Development Coalition's Micah Newburg, who is getting the word out to potential businesses. The Dayton region has over 250 aerospace suppliers.

Who Would Use eVTOLS?

The Coalition is also meeting with local hospitals to talk about the use of eVTOLS for organ delivery, EMS for quick transportation to the scene of an accident, and companies who would use them for transportation of goods.

Director for Federal Affairs at the Dayton Development Coalition Jason Henderson says," Ohio has an opportunity to, right now, be a major player in this market."

Plans are underway to establish a National Advancement Air Mobility Center of Excellence at Springfield. It would be a collaborative effort to bring the industry together with the Air Force and NASA.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
From left: Elaine Bryant, Micah Newburg and Jason Henderson, all with the Dayton Development Coalition.