The same Ohio river valley where the Wright brothers pioneered human flight will soon be manufacturing electric planes that take off and land vertically, under an agreement between the state and Joby Aviation.
“When you’re talking about air taxis, that’s the future,” Republican governor Mike DeWine told The Associated Press.
“We find this very, very exciting — not only for the direct jobs and indirect jobs it’s going to create, but like Intel, it’s a signal to people that Ohio is looking to the future. This is a big deal for us.”
Around the world, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are entering the mainstream, though questions remain about noise levels and charging demands.
Still, developers say the planes are nearing the day when they will provide a wide-scale alternative to shuttle individual people or small groups from rooftops and parking garages to their destinations, while avoiding the congested roads below.
Joby’s decision to locate its first scaled manufacturing facility at a 140-acre site at Dayton International Airport delivers on two decades of groundwork laid by the state’s leaders, Republican lieutenant governor Jon Husted said. Importantly, the site is near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the headquarters of the US Air Force Research Laboratories.
“For a hundred years, the Dayton area has been a leader in aviation innovation,” Mr Husted said. “But capturing a large-scale manufacturer of aircraft has always eluded the local economy there. With this announcement, that aspiration has been realised.”
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, lived and worked in Dayton.
In 1910, they opened the first US airplane factory there. To connect the historical dots, Joby’s formal announcement on Monday will take place at Orville Wright’s home, Hawthorn Hill, and conclude with a ceremonial flypast of a replica of the Wright Model B Flyer.
Joby’s production aircraft is designed to transport a pilot and four passengers at speeds of up to 200mph, with a maximum range of 100 miles. Its quiet noise profile is barely audible against the backdrop of most cities, the company said. The plan is to place them in aerial ride-sharing networks beginning in 2025.
The efforts of the California-based company are supported by partnerships with Toyota, Delta Airlines, Intel and Uber. Joby is a 14-year-old company that went public in 2021 and became the first eVTOL firm to receive US Air Force airworthiness certification.
The company plans to build a facility capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft a year and creating 2,000 jobs. The US Department of Energy has invited Joby to apply for a loan to support development of the facility as a clean energy project.
Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told the AP that the company chose Ohio after an extensive and competitive search. Its financial package was not the largest but the chance to bring the operation to the birthplace of aviation — with a workforce experienced in the field — sealed the deal, he said.
“Ohio is the number one state when it comes to supplying parts for Boeing and Airbus,” Mr Bevirt said. “Ohio is number three in the nation on manufacturing jobs — and that depth of manufacturing prowess, that workforce, is critical to us as we look to build this manufacturing facility.”