Aerospace company Aerion Supersonic has selected Melbourne as its global headquarters, where it will manufacture the world’s first privately built supersonic aircraft — a business jet that can fly at more than 1,000 mph.
The project is expected to bring at least 675 jobs to the Space Coast by 2026.
Aerion plans to break ground on its new campus later this year on a site at Orlando Melbourne International Airport, ahead of manufacturing its 12-passenger AS2 business jet, starting in 2023.
During a news conference late Friday afternoon in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the jobs will pay an average of $105,000 a year.
Supersonic jets can travel at greater than the speed of sound, which is 767 mph.
The announcement of Aerion’s move from its current headquarters in Reno, Nevada, to the Space Coast was made by DeSantis and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. It comes at a time when the local and national economies are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials noted that the Aerion announcement is a bright spot in an otherwise-gloomy time.
“Brevard County is home to the pioneers of space exploration, and now the pioneers of sustainable supersonic transportation,” Economic Development Commission President and Chief Executive Officer Lynda Weatherman said. “Aerion Park raises the profile of Florida’s Space Coast as the premier site for the most innovative aerospace companies in the world and is an example of what can be accomplished, even in the most challenging times, when the EDC and its state and local partners work together.”
Weatherman said the Aerion project is “a giant vote of confidence in the economic future of Brevard County,” at a time when the coronavirus pandemic “presents a challenge the likes of which few in living memory have faced. It threatens our workforce, our businesses and our way of life.”
The project coming to the Space Coast is “a testament to the strength of the community,” Weatherman said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this community.”
Aerion Park will form a new global headquarters and integrated campus for research, design, build and maintenance of the company’s supersonic aircraft. The project represents a $300 million investment.
In addition to the 675 new jobs Aerion will bring to the area, Aerion Park is expected to attract aerospace suppliers within the supersonic technology sector to bring business to Florida, creating additional roles for scientists, designers, engineers and aircraft builders.
The company said AS2 business jet can fly at a speed of Mach 1.4, or about 1,065 mph. Aerion entered into a partnership with The Boeing Co. in February 2019 to develop the AS2 and advance the supersonic market. In 2018, Aerion announced that GE Aviation’s Affinity supersonic engine will power the AS2.
Aerion said it designed the AS2 to be “environmentally friendly” as the first supersonic aircraft designed without an afterburner; the first supersonic aircraft designed with the ability to accept 100% biofuels; and the first commercial aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds over land with no noise on the ground. The company said there will be no “sonic booms” heard on the ground, like those created by the Concorde jets that flew commercially from 1976 to 2003.
In describing the AS2 on its website, the Aerion said: “Advanced aerodynamics enable Aerion to create hyper-luxury and quiet, so that you can enjoy your time in the air, whether you want to stay productive or just relax on the way. Our aim is to make air travel supremely enjoyable again.”
The AS2’s cabin interiors and seating arrangements are designed to spec, and will feature “a modern, minimalist visual language that matches the aerodynamic design of the AS2’s exterior,” with “plush recliner seats and sofas … crafted with the finest luxury materials for unmatched comfort in the air.”
When it begins production, Aerion will join the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer as companies that assemble business jets at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.
The EDC coordinated with state and local entities in seeking to attract Aerion to the Space Coast, including the targeting of a $3.9 million Florida Job Growth Grant for infrastructure improvements at the airport. Weatherman said the EDC also provided $200,000 to offset development fees for this project.
Weatherman said the EDC has been pursuing the company since December 2018.
Others working on the project included officials from Enterprise Florida, Space Florida, the airport, Brevard County and the city of Melbourne.
Aerion Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Vice said his company evaluated a number of potential locations for its new headquarters before choosing Melbourne.
Vice retired in 2017 from Northrop Grumman Corp. after more than 30 years, including serving as president of its aerospace systems sector, which has a large presence in Melbourne. Vice previously lived in Brevard County, and had been a member of the Florida Institute of Technology’s board of trustees.
Weatherman said she believes Brevard County won the Aerion project for a number of reasons, including having a good site at the airport, and having a strong business culture in aerospace, aviation and avionics.
During a news conference at the airport in November, DeSantis announced the $3.9 million grant for the airport, saying it could lead to an aerospace company moving here and creating 500 or more jobs.
At the time, Donovan said the grant would initiate construction of taxiway, stormwater, utility and road improvements that will open a 59-acre undeveloped parcel of land on the north side of the airport — one of the airport’s largest — for development just west of Embraer’s campus.