A small jet manufacturer located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is currently expressing interest in becoming the first manufacturing client at the county’s new Air Transportation Park.
During last week’s Mingo County Redevelopment Authority meeting, Executive Director Leasha Johnson told board members that she was contacted by an official in mid-October about the possibility of his company developing a prototype of a lightweight jet that can deploy and rebuild broadband and cellular service to disaster impacted areas.
Because of the crafts’ light weight, Johnson said the jets are capable of flying at speeds as low as 80 to 90 knots (essentially idling speed), which not only increases fuel efficiency but additionally allows the jets to fly for as long as eight hours in order to deploy broadband and cellular signals during flight.
She said the company expects the prototype to be proven and ready for construction within the next six to 12 months.
“They have expressed an interest in manufacturing the jets at the Mingo County Air Transportation Park ... they need 10,000 sq. ft. of space, and they would be manufacturing the jets in five, five-man stations,” she said. “The jets will have both commercial and military applications, but commercially, the prospect is already working with a global broadband company to secure a multimillion contract for the sale of their first fleet of five jets.”
Johnson said company officials have also requested a meeting with West Virginia Department of Commerce officials to discuss the plausibility of the aircraft company receiving tax and capital incentives.
“I’m in the process of scheduling that meeting with officials from the West Virginia Development Office’s business attraction team,” she said. “Of course, these discussions are preliminary, but this is the very type of aviation-related manufacturing that we’ve always anticipated the Air Transportation Park to attract. So we’re really excited about this opportunity to potentially recruit our first manufacturing client.”
Johnson said she believes once the Air Transportation Park is fully operational, Mingo County will already have in place the skilled workforce and aviation infrastructure needed to foster the development and growth of the aviation industry.
“Because of the growing trends nationally, AEP’s (American Electric Power) economic development division has collaborated with community leaders and developers in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio to form the Appalachian Sky Initiative,” she said. “This is a program developed to certify sites in AEP’s service region as ‘aero ready’ and to encourage economic growth in the aviation and aerospace sectors.”
Johnson said AEP has taken steps to compile and analyze data which supports the development of the aerospace sector in coal-impacted communities — such as Mingo County — from both a workforce and diversification standpoint.