Virginia’s aerospace industry is a diverse group of companies involved in aviation as well as space travel. Here are snapshots of three of the estimated 350 companies statewide.
Dynamic Aviation: a spy in the sky
Dynamic Aviation started in the Shenandoah Valley about 75 years ago as a crop-dusting business. As that business faded over time, the company has found new customers and new markets.
Private-sector customers have hired Dynamic Aviation for what CEO Michael Stoltzfus calls “airborne data acquisition,” which can run from aerial mapping and photography to air sampling.
Now the company, which is based in Bridgewater and has its main facility at Bridgewater Air Park, is turning toward a new market, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. “That’s the market that we see having the most need, and we think that’s going to have the most growth going forward,” Stoltzfus says. Its new customers include the Department of Defense and private-sector contractors.
In 1996 the company bought 124 Beechcraft BE-90 airplanes from the military. That purchase was part of its transformation into a “one-stop shop” for public- and private-sector clients who need quick access to a plane set up with the right equipment. One recent customer needed to examine the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Dynamic Aviation put together a fleet of nine airplanes and a staff of 25 people in just 10 days.
The company has about 150 aircraft and about 500 employees, half of them based in Bridgewater.
Rolls-Royce gets ready in Prince George County
By the end of the year one of the biggest aerospace manufacturing facilities in the country will employ about 140 when it begins operations next year in Prince George County.
London-based Rolls-Royce has even bigger plans for its property in the Crosspointe Center industrial park in Prince George. The first investment is about $170 million for a 140,000-square-foot building; over time the company intends to invest about $500 million at the site, creating 500 jobs.
There have been changes in the original plans, which were announced in 2007. The first building was scheduled to open last year, but it was delayed because of market conditions. And, that plant was supposed to supply parts for the business jet market, but demand there has dropped.
Instead, the plant will make discs — the part of the engine that contains the blades — for planes such as Boeing’s new 787 and the Airbus A380.
A second building being planned will make “blisks” — which are bladed discs – for the F136, an engine for a new fighter jet being developed by Rolls-Royce and General Electric.
BaySys International caters to the ultra rich
BaySys International CEO Steve Walton is from Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That’s one reason that it’s located there. Another is the fact that the Shore is one of the few places where BaySys can get a huge hangar and have access to a long runway.
BaySys, which has 280 employees, now works from a rented hangar on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. “We are a fairly low-visibility company,” Walton says. “We bring two airplanes in and close the doors, and nobody knows what we’re doing.”
What they’re doing is creating a custom flying environment for ultra-high net worth people used to being surrounded by luxury. This group can include foreign heads of state or people who simply can afford to drop many millions on an airplane. “We’re like ‘Pimp My Ride’ for airplanes,” Walton says.
BaySys plans to invest about $25 million in a new hangar at the Wallops Research Park, just a few hundred yards from its present site. The current building is too small for the commercial jets that BaySys plans to begin working on, such as the 250-foot Boeing 747-8. Boeing plans to produce about six jets for VIP use, and BaySys has bid on three of them.
Walton once was part of the flight crew for Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a former Saudi ambassador to the United States. That experience taught Walton a lot about the niche market and customers he now serves. “It can be rewarding, and it can be fascinating,” he says.
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