Report: Air taxis could land Va. $16B in new biz by 2045
Study recommends state air mobility director
Air taxis could generate up to $16 billion in new business in Virginia and carry as many as 66 million passengers by 2045, according to an economic impact study released Tuesday.
The report, commissioned by the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp. and the state commerce and trade secretary, forecasts short, carbon-free flights connecting cities, suburbs and rural areas, allowing residents to jump on a quick flight from Winchester or Chesapeake to places like Richmond or Washington International Dulles Airport. It also predicts a future in which the public can summon an air taxi using a smartphone app similar to Uber.
The study also examines the burgeoning advanced air mobility (AAM) industry and its transformative possibilities for Virginia residents, businesses, academia and the public sector, as well as on public safety. AAM uses a variety of electric and hydrogen-electric hybrid small aircraft, as well as drones, which can travel in airspace not traditionally used and perform tasks that aren’t performed by larger aircraft.
The report notes that the state has 66 public use airports, and only nine of those are used by commercial airlines. The remaining 57 airports are used for purposes including agricultural operations, medical services, flight schools and business aviation. While larger airlines avoid short flights and small cities, airlines including Delta, Virgin Atlantic, United, American and others have placed orders for AAM aircraft to expand their markets. Cities including Singapore, Munich, Paris, Los Angeles, Orlando and Dallas are planning to introduce AAM pilots in coming years, and market analyses have forecast a global opportunity of more than $1 trillion through 2045.
The Hampton Roads Executive Airport is planning a dedicated passenger vertiport for electrical vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicles, plus hydrogen fueling and electric charging areas, and Winchester Regional Airport has considered AAM in the design for a replacement terminal, plus building partnerships with AAM policy stakeholders including NASA Langley Research Center and the National Renewable Energy Lab.
According to the report, the AAM industry will benefit Virginia in the following ways through 2045:
- Generate $16 billion in new and related business activity, including manufacturing;
- Add 10% or more growth to the state’s aerospace sector;
- Produce $2.8 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues;
- Add 17,000 full-time aerospace and other jobs;
- Add employment and educational opportunities in all regions of the state.
“AAM is poised to boost Virginia’s economy while creating thousands of high-paying jobs for a workforce that is increasingly becoming more technology-focused as we expand Virginia’s leadership in the aerospace and drone industry to include multi-dimensional mobility that will attract manufacturers and investment from around the country,” said Bob Stolle, CEO and president of Herndon-based VIPC, the nonprofit, startup-funding arm of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority. VIPC was formed in November 2021 when the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) merged with four other state funds.
The study recommends the appointment of a state AAM executive director; investment in resources and attracting equipment manufacturers and associated supply chains; expansion of STEM programs; regulatory approvals; incorporating Washington, D.C. to explore economic partnerships, and the introduction of “living laboratories” to accelerate AAM growth in the state.
The Virginia AAM Alliance, a collaboration between VIPC and the Virginia Department of Aviation, was established last year at the Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at VIPC and draws on about 100 stakeholders across the state in aerospace, government, industry, transportation, economic development, real estate, academia and health care. The study draws on the experiences of the group.