The Advanced Air Mobility industry is rapidly expanding, and West Virginia has the opportunity to be one of its defining pioneers.
CHARLESTON, W.V. – On Tuesday, October 3rd, Vertx Partners organized West Virginia’s inaugural aerospace, aviation, and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) coalition meeting. Hosted at the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School, the conference addressed the intersection of statewide education and industry in the three fields, as well as sketching a roadmap for fostering growth in these areas.
Additionally, Tuesday’s meeting brought a wide swathe of state leadership together for the first time to gather consensus on what this roadmap bettering AAM education, workforce, and recruitment looks like. Coordination of these efforts is being led by Mary Cook, VP of Operations at Vertx Partners.
In attendance were several high-profile state leaders, including:
- Toney Stroud, Chief Legal Officer & Vice President Strategic Initiatives and Corporate Relations, Marshall University.
- Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and Community and Technical College System (CTCS).
- Paul Hardesty, President of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE).
- James Coble, WVBE Manager of Empowerment Academies Services.
- Sean Frisbee, United States Air Force (USAF) Ret. Col. and President of Vertx Partners.
- Mike Graney, West Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce Aerospace & Aviation.
- And other regional leaders who presented AAM outlook reports specific to their areas.
Existing Aviation, Aerospace, and AAM Education in WV
Representatives from the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) spoke on existing aviation and aerospace offerings in the state. These opportunities include award-winning robotics programs, approved curricula at various WV high schools like Hurricane High and Bridgeport, the K-5 LAUNCH Program which encourages STEM in elementary school students, and GATEWAY for middle school students.
Additionally, co-curricular programs like the Let’s Fly WV and the REC Aerial Drone Competition were discussed. Last year, the middle and high school winners of the national REC competition were students from Lincoln Country in southern WV.
WVDE representatives encouraged everyone from students to industry leaders to reach out and provide feedback to better prepare students for work in aviation, aerospace, and AAM. The WVDE hopes to bridge the gap between education and industry by inviting industry leaders to sponsor programs, provide scholarship opportunities, and even judge events.
The Future of AAM in America
Globally, the AAM industry was valued at $8.2 billion in 2022. This year, the value jumped to $14.2 billion. By 2035, the consulting firm Deloitte estimates that AAM will be a >$100 billion-a-year industry in the United States alone. If the industry continues to grow at its present rate, it is estimated that 2.3% of all American high school graduates will need to contribute to the industry just to keep pace.
“Promoting aerospace, aviation, and AAM in the state is not just smart for job growth and economic development, it addresses core national security concerns,” said Vertx President Sean Frisbee during his presentation. “West Virginia will play an important role in national security as we educate our young men and women, and they enter the workforce.”
The development of AAM is considered a national security concern by organizations like the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense for varying reasons mostly related to air superiority.
However, AAM is a versatile field that has applications beyond national security. Drones can deliver medical supplies and relief to underserved communities in rural areas. They can also survey environments susceptible to wildfire. In Fayette County, WV, drones are being used to map out trails for virtual trail walking.
“The use of drones in the film industry will drive development,” Frisbee said, observing how AAM technology is beginning to permeate many aspects of life.
Why WV is Prepared to Tackle Aerospace, Aviation, AAM, and Beyond
Panelists raised several critical developments and facts about West Virginia during the meeting. Some of these include:
- In 2022, the state legislature approved the creation of the West Virginia Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Advisory Council, a step considered by many to be vital in establishing an AAM presence in the state. The establishment efforts were spearheaded by Vertx Partners.
- The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority is working with Vertx Partners and other organizations to develop a Mobile Command Unit that will bring drone Command & Control systems to K-16 students in the state.
- Precision Castparts Corp. will invest over $300 million to build the world’s first carbon-neutral titanium melt facility in Ravenswood, WV, which will incentivize regional aircraft developers.
- West Virginia businesses SMR Technologies and Collins Aerospace are the only companies in the country that develop aviation de-icing equipment for aircraft.
- Constellium, also based in Ravenswood, recently won a NASA grant to manufacture proprietary alloy for the Artemis Mission series that aims to put Americans back on the Moon by 2025.
“Aviation is alive and well in West Virginia,” said Mike Graney on Tuesday at the Bill Noe Flight School. With a solid foundation in aviation already, the West Virginia AAM coalition aims to consolidate resources to begin working on the future of aerospace, aviation, and AAM in the Mountain State.
“It doesn’t matter the socioeconomic status, race, or creed,” said Frisbee. “We need the great minds of America to come together.”
Reach out to Vertx Partners today to get involved in making West Virginia a leader in Advanced Air Mobility.