The same Ohio river valley where the Wright brothers pioneered human flight will soon be manufacturing cutting-edge electric planes that take off and land vertically, under an agreement announced Monday between the state and Joby Aviation Inc.
“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 takeoff and landing, or 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 thoroughfares below.
Joby's decision to locate its first scaled manufacturing facility at a 56-hectare 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 U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories.
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, lived and worked in Dayton. In 1910, they opened the first U.S. airplane factory there. To connect the historical dots, Joby's formal announcement Monday took place at Orville Wright's home, Hawthorn Hill, and concluded 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 321 kilometers per hour, with a maximum range of 160 kilometers. 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 Santa Cruz, California-based company are supported by partnerships with Toyota, Delta Air Lines, Intel and Uber. Joby is a 14-year-old company that went public in 2021 and became the first eVTOL firm to receive U.S. Air Force airworthiness certification.
The $500 million project is supported by up to $325 million in incentives from the state of Ohio, its JobsOhio economic development office and local government. With the funds, Joby plans to build an Ohio facility capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft a year and creating 2,000 jobs. The U.S. 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 Associated Press that the company chose Ohio after an extensive and competitive search. Its financial package wasn't 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 No. 1 state when it comes to supplying parts for Boeing and Airbus," Bevirt said. "Ohio is No. 3 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.
Bevirt said operations and hiring will begin immediately from existing buildings near the development site, contingent upon clearing the standard legal and regulatory hurdles. The site is large enough to eventually accommodate 18.58 hectares of manufacturing space.
Construction on the manufacturing facility is expected to begin in 2024, with production to begin in 2025.
The announcement comes as a bipartisan group of Ohio's congressional representatives has recently stepped up efforts to lure the U.S. Air Force’s new U.S. Space Command headquarters, or Space Force, units to Ohio. There, too, state leaders cite the aerospace legacy of the Wrights, as well as Ohio-born astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.