Air Mobility center next step for Springfield airport

Recent investments and a growing demand for air mobility research at the Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport has led to plans for the construction of an $8.2 million facility.

Construction on the National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence is expected to began in June and wrap up in summer 2023. The plan for the facility signals a next step for the airport, which is a major economic asset to the area, and can attract more investment in the future, said Tom Franzen, Springfield’s director of economic development.

Franzen, who is also Springfield’s assistant city manager, discussed current investment and economic development projects at the airport with the Springfield Rotary Club on Monday.

The air mobility center will be a 30,000 square-foot, two-story facility that will accommodate university and government research as well as companies developing advanced air mobility aircrafts. Some of that work is already taking place at the airport.

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The type of air mobility technology researched and tested at the airport has been described as envisioning a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that uses highly automated aircraft that will operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes to urban and suburban areas.

Franzen provided an overview of the various activities taking place at the airport, as well as its economic importance and what has led to the building of the National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence.

He also listed all the airport’s assets that make it a strong economic driver as well as help create more opportunities for investment.

The airport is home to an Ohio Air National Guard base, and is relatively close to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. It is also situated between Dayton and Columbus.

The airport already has a steady customer base, and is home to two MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations), Spectra Jet and Lone Mountain Aircraft.

Springfield Beckley is an aerospace complex that consist of a general aviation airport, and it has space for the development and testing of air mobility technology, an unmanned aircraft systems flight range and a commercial business park.

But, as the airport becomes more involved with air mobility, space there will support manufacturers and operators of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL), a type of aircraft that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically, Franzen said.

As more research and testing related to that technology takes place at the airport, it will allow those in Springfield to work alongside the likes of NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration to help evaluate safety considerations as well as infrastructure requirements around Air Mobility, said Franzen, the assistant city manager and director of economic development for the city of Springfield.

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Since 2019, the airport has been home to the SkyVision radar asset, which offers airspace monitoring services for aircraft and payload testing.

In addition, the airport saw a $2.5 million investment to create a charging station with office facilities as well as infrastructure to accommodate multiple eVTOL flight simulators.

The air mobility center will be the next stage of that work as several companies associated with that technology has already set up a presence at the airport.

The center will also be used by other entities that are part of the program called Agility Prime. The Air Force launched a $35 million program in 2021 seeking to create and speed a commercial market for advanced air mobility aircraft.

“We have been laying the building blocks for what we are doing out there,” Franzen said.

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