Springfield continues to play key role in the evolution of flight

National Advance Air Mobility Industry Forum is at airport this week.

Springfield is playing a major role in the development of air mobility technology that will be capable of landing and taking off vertically as recent activity in the area is attracting national attention.

More companies are eyeing the city, especially the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, as investments made in recent years have drawn those interested in researching and testing that type of cutting edge flight technology.

As a result, the National Advance Air Mobility Industry Forum will be Monday and Tuesday in Springfield as an opportunity to connect governmental institutions with higher education and companies involved in the development of air mobility and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“It is really exciting because it is bringing together the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that are leading this industry with Ohio’s supplier base and manufacturing resources as well as our universities that are working in this field. It’s really our opportunity to show off everything that Ohio has to offer as part of leading this third evolution in flight,” said Elaine Bryant, the Executive Vice President for Aerospace and Defense for the Dayton Development Coalition.

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A showcase of that type of technology took place in November at Springfield-Beckley. However, the forum will be much larger as it will see speakers from companies developing that technology, those leading the charge in local economic development as well as representatives of NASA and the Aerospace and Defense Advisor to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

The forum will also see participants from universities, other governmental agencies such as the Ohio Department of Transportation, researchers, the Vertical Flight Society as well as those who work with the aviation, defense and healthcare industries. The event will be hosted in downtown Springfield and at Springfield-Beckley. It will see flight demonstrations, simulators used for testing and development and the sharing of information related to the state’s efforts to build a collaborative aviation ecosystem and a strong supply chain as well as the different applications of air mobility technology, such as how it can be utilized for healthcare.

“It’s about connecting folks to the Ohio supplier base and our universities so they can take advantage of those capabilities and build relationships. It also serves to attract those companies and have them come to Ohio so they can be close to those different partners either on the industry, supplier side or on the academic side,” Bryant said.

The event also comes at a time as local, regional and state officials say that the continued work centered around that technology in the area can lead to manufacturing opportunities. The state as well as the greater Dayton region, including Springfield, have been working over the years to get in on the ground floor in relation to air mobility.

The idea is that as development and testing continues and that work sees more investment, companies that want to mass produce that technology will set up manufacturing facilities. Officials in the state and region say that the area is well positioned for those opportunities, citing available manufacturing space and growing partnerships between governmental, educational and business entities as well as supply routes and infrastructure.

More companies and manufacturing in Ohio as a result of air mobility development can add jobs and further strengthen the state’s economy.

That can also benefit the state’s traditional manufacturing presence, especially in Springfield and Clark County as a whole.

“Our traditional supplier base in the community and region will have opportunities to serve that new industry, those new vehicles as they come online,” said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of Economic Development for the City of Springfield.

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The growth of that cutting edge flight technology and continued interest in its capabilities has led to Springfield’s airport becoming an important location for the research and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, and air mobility technology. As a result, a $9.3 million National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence is being constructed there. The 30,000 square-foot, two-story facility will accommodate university and government research and companies developing that technology that already have a presence at the airport. It will also provide 25,000 square-feet in hanger space.

That center, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2023, is slated to attract more companies looking to develop that technology as well as be used by other entities that are part of the program called Agility Prime. The Air Force launched the $35 million program in order to create and speed a commercial market for advanced air mobility aircraft.

“We have interest from a dozen companies that want to have space in that facility,” Franzen said of the air mobility center.

Springfield-Beckley benefits from its Ohio Air National Guard presence along with its proximity to institutions such as Wright Patterson Airforce base in the Dayton area. The airport along with the region as a whole has seen continued investment over the years to accommodate the development of air mobility technology and drone development. That includes flight simulators, charging stations and radar systems.

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That previous work to add infrastructure as well as programs such as Agility Prime and cheaper testing cost have garnered interest from universities and companies that want to get closer to the research and development of air mobility technology.

The forum will allow the public to get up close and actually see what those aircraft will look like and how they will function and operate. The second day of the forum will see a ground breaking ceremony for the Advanced Air Mobility Center.

Money for the construction of that center will come from a roughly $6 million grant from the Department of Defense and JobsOhio has pledged support contingent on final approval of $2.9 million. The city is expected to cover the balance.

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