The aerospace sector in Virginia is robust, with leading global companies contributing to the Commonwealth’s corporate community. Prominent aerospace companies include Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Dynamic Aviation Group, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, L-3, Moog, Northrop Grumman, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Raytheon, and Rolls-Royce, among others.
Virginia Provides Unmatched Access to the Federal Government
Virginia is a leader in the defense industry and home to the world’s largest naval base at Naval Station Norfolk, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Pentagon. Many aerospace-related defense companies and systems integrators are based in Virginia.
- 30 military installations, including the Pentagon and the world’s largest naval base
- 11 federally funded R&D centers and 21 FLC laboratories
- 41 of the top 100 federal contracting company headquarters
- No. 1 in FY19 federal contract dollars awarded – over $84 billion in prime contracts
- 454,000 working-age veterans living in Virginia
- 4th-largest veteran workforce in the country
Virginia is a Strategic Location for Aerospace Manufacturing
The Commonwealth’s strong transportation infrastructure ensures optimal access to regional and international airports, a spaceport, major east/west and north/south interstate highways and rail lines, and seaports. A Virginia location puts the aerospace sector in close proximity to key anchor manufacturers. GE Aviation and Honda Aircraft are close to Virginia’s southern communities that border North Carolina, and Boeing’s East Coast manufacturing facility is within a few hours’ drive of the Commonwealth.
With developable sites adjacent to runways and a skilled workforce, Virginia offers the ideal landing spot for MRO companies. Airports with sites available for aviation-related development adjacent to runways include Washington Dulles International Airport, Richmond International Airport, Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, Manassas Regional Airport, New River Valley Airport, and Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.
Virginia is home to one of four spaceports with FAA approval to launch into space. The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) administers all commercial spaceflight operations within the Commonwealth, including launch activities at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). MARS, located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore, provides launch pads for ISS cargo delivery, scientific, DoD, and commercial missions. In addition to two launch facilities (one mid-class and one small-class), MARS provides access to support infrastructure facilities through agreements with NASA, such as vehicle and payload processing integration facilities, support instrumentation, and emergency facilities.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, established in 1945, is the agency’s premier location for conducting research using suborbital vehicles – aircraft, scientific balloons, and sounding rockets. Wallops is NASA’s only rocket launch range and has launched over 16,000 in its more than 70-year history.
Wallops Research Park (WRP), offers publicly owned developable sites providing taxi-way access to the Wallops Flight Facility.
NASA Langley Research Center comprises nearly 200 facilities on 764 acres in Hampton and employs about 3,400 civil servants and contractors. Langley works to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, and develop technology for space exploration.
Aerospace R&D in Virginia
Virginia’s diverse R&D facilities allow companies to partner with Virginia’s leading educational institutions to advance industry research and develop next-generation technologies.
The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)
NIA, with headquarters in Hampton, is a nonprofit research and graduate education institute created to conduct innovative aerospace and atmospheric research, develop new technologies for the nation, and help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
NIA was formed by a consortium of leading research universities. Members include Georgia Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary, and the AIAA Foundation.
NIA serves as a strategic partner with NASA Langley Research Center and the aerospace community to enable research creativity and expand technology development opportunities.
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM)
CCAM is an applied research center that provides production-ready advanced manufacturing solutions to member companies across the globe. Members guide the research, leveraging talent and resources within CCAM and at Virginia universities through a collaborative model that enables them to pool R&D efforts to increase efficiencies. Strategic research areas include adaptive automation systems, surface engineering, additive manufacturing, and machining science and technology.
Most CCAM members will have access to the results of generic research – funded and guided by the membership to address the needs of a broad spectrum of industry members. Organizing members and strategic members can also perform directed research, allowing a member to work with CCAM staff on projects that address the specific needs of that member. Organizing members include: Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus, Chromalloy, KYOCERA SGS Precision Tools, Newport News Shipbuilding, Oerlikon Metco, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, and Siemens.
Partnering with John Tyler Community College, CCAM is also creating diverse pathways for students, veterans, displaced workers, and others to enter high-demand, skilled careers in the manufacturing industries.
Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems (CCAPS)
CCAPS is a public-private research partnership created by the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Rolls-Royce. The CCAPS research activities are focused on gas turbine technologies, including advanced surface coatings, combustion, ceramic matrix composites, fluid dynamics, turbo-machinery, and power electronics.
The Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC)
VSGC is a coalition of five Virginia colleges and universities, NASA, state educational agencies, Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology, and other institutions representing diverse aerospace education and research.
The VSGC acts as an umbrella organization, coordinating and developing aerospace-related and high-technology educational and research efforts throughout the Commonwealth and connecting Virginia's efforts to a national community with shared aerospace interests.
Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Prince George County
The Commonwealth’s 274 aerospace companies employ over 27,000 Virginians, and top-ranked educational institutions offer world-class engineering programs to provide a pipeline of skilled workers in the industry.
NASA Langley, Hampton
Virginia’s Aerospace Workforce
|Selected Occupation||Virginia Employment||Virginia Median Salary|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians||5,790||69,850|
|Engineering Technicians, Except Drafters, All Other||3,580||78,260|
|Industrial Engineering Technicians||980||54,590|
|Software Developers, Applications||38,110||109,740|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||1,590||39,910|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||8,330||46,280|
|Assemblers and Fabricators, All Other, Including Team Assemblers||19,650||29,560|
|Sheet Metal Workers||3,910||47,520|
Source: BLS, OES, 2018
*Denotes Emsi value because 2018 value was suppressed
Virginia’s colleges, universities, and community colleges continue to build a pipeline of skilled labor for the aerospace industry of today and of the future. Over 4,570 traditional engineering degrees were awarded during the 2018-19 academic year in Virginia and over 20,500 students are currently enrolled in engineering programs.
Virginia Tech was named by Aviation Week in 2017 as one of the top university providers of graduates for hiring within the global aerospace and defense industry. The Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering also has been ranked as the 5th-best aerospace engineering program globally in the Center for World University 2018 rankings.
The Center for Space Science and Engineering (Space@VT) comprises a group of faculty, students, and staff devoted to the investigation of the space environment.
Virginia Tech, Wright State University (WSU), and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) have teamed to form a collaborative center for the development of future aerospace vehicles (FAVs) - Virginia Tech's Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Center for Advanced Vehicles (MAD Center), based at Virginia Tech.
Other industry programs at Virginia’s colleges and universities include:
- The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Program at the University of Virginia, a thriving program of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty with a commitment to exploration, innovation, and engineering excellence. The aerospace program’s research strengths include the Applied Research Laboratory, the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Center for Advanced Propulsion, and projects in combustion and wind energy.
- The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at Old Dominion University providing undergraduate and graduate programs of study in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
- The Department of Aviation in the School of Engineering and Technology at Hampton University, only one of the 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in America with a Federal Aviation Administration-approved ATCI program.
- A Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Management at Averett University, with two concentration options, aviation business and flight operations.
- The School of Aeronautics at Liberty University, offering a number of aviation-related degree programs, including Bachelor of Science degrees in aeronautics, aviation, aviation maintenance, aviation administration, and aviation maintenance management.
- The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) is a distance learning graduate program of five universities; George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. CGEP offers qualified individuals the opportunity to earn a master's degree part time through onsite and televised graduate classes.
Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer business-led training programs:
- Blue Ridge Community College offers an Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) associate degree program, as well as certificate programs in airframe maintenance, powerplant maintenance, light sport aircraft mechanic career studies, and commercial pilot career studies.
- John Tyler Community College offers a precision machining technology certificate in partnership with Rolls-Royce which has provided input into the development and refinement of coursework and curricula, and provided new machines, tools, and resources for hands-on training.
- STEM Takes Flight is a partnership between Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC), the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Wallops Flight Facility that provides a suite of programs for Virginia community college students pursuing STEM majors. Opportunities include paid onsite research experiences at NASA Langley and NASA Wallops and a NASA residential faculty professional development workshop.
Virginia’s large military presence provides an ongoing source of talent from exiting members entering the civilian workforce. Virginia has the 4th-largest number of working age veterans in the U.S., providing a well-trained talent pool.
Existing programs in Virginia, including Military2Manufacturing (M2M) from the VMA and Virginia Values Veterans (V3), help transitioning military prepare civilian careers by translating military skills and training to the private sector. The V3 program helps employers develop and implement long-term strategies and nationally recognized best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans.
Virginia also encourages STEM learning for developing skills applicable to aerospace at the K-12 level. Examples include:
- The Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) program, an interactive online science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning experience highlighted by a seven-day residential summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton for high school juniors and seniors.
- The Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology (BLAST), a partnership between the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. BLAST offers an on-campus summer STEM experience free to participating 8th- and 9th-grade students.
- The Virginia Space Coast Scholars (VSCS), a program for high school sophomores focusing on the science, engineering, and technology integral to current missions at NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
- The Virginia Earth System Science Scholars (VESSS) program, an interactive on-line science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning experience for Virginia high school juniors and seniors, highlighted by a seven-day residential summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center.
- Jefferson Lab’s K-12 STEM outreach programs, reaching more than 13,000 students and 1,200 teachers annually.
- The Aviation Academy at Denbigh High School in Newport News, offering aviation magnet courses with a focus on piloting, aircraft maintenance, engineering, and aviation security/safety.
Nanci Hardwick CEO, Aeroprobe
At Aeroprobe, we strive to be revolutionary in technology and culture. Expanding our operations will allow us to pursue that goal at a new level, while also contributing to Virginia’s growing position as a technology leader.
Virginia is consistently ranked as a top location for business, and boasts a stable pro-business climate. Virginia is a right-to-work state with the 5th-lowest unionization rate in the U.S. at 5.5%.
Virginia offers a welcoming business climate for aerospace companies and is recognized as a top state for business, coming in at No. 1 by CNBC and No. 4 by Forbes.com in their annual best states for business rankings.
- 2019 electricity rates are below the U.S. average at 6.24 cents per kilowatt hour vs. 7.01 cents nationally.
- Unemployment insurance taxes are the 5th-lowest in the nation and 43% lower than the national average.
- Average workers' compensation costs are among the nation’s lowest.
- Effective tax rates for labor-intensive manufacturing rank No. 2 according to the 2015 Location Matters Study by the Tax Foundation.
- The corporate income tax rate of 6%, not increased since 1972, demonstrates the Commonwealth’s stability for business.
- Average manufacturing compensation is 12.4% below the national average.
- Sales and use tax exemption is available for aviation parts, engines, and supplies used for maintaining, repairing, or reconditioning aircraft.
- "ZeroGravity, ZeroTax" provides state income tax incentives to locate and headquarter space flight launch and training business operations in Virginia.
- The Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Law makes space flight entities not liable for a participant injury resulting from the risks of space flight activities.