Aerion Decision ‘Surprises, Disappoints’ Florida Airport
The management of Melbourne Orlando International Airport (MLB) was “surprised and disappointed” by Aerion Supersonic’s sudden decision to cease operations, which apparently ended the company’s plans to build a 110-acre headquarters at the airport.
In a statement provided to Business & Commercial Aviation in the days following Aerion’s May 21 public disclosure, MLB Executive Director Greg Donovan said his understanding was that the Reno, Nevada-based company would continue paying its employees through June 15.
Separately, the airport said that Aerion had not started work on the complex, which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled in April 2020. Plans called for a $300 million investment in the Aerion Park headquarters and production facility for the AS2 supersonic business jet, which was to create 675 jobs by 2026.
Aerion acknowledged on May 21 that it had ceased work on a program it had originally launched in 2003, citing its inability to close on a new round of capital needed to move the AS2 into production.
Donovan said the airport’s immediate concerns were for the impacted employees and their families, and he expressed hope that they can quickly find reemployment.
“As for [Aerion], we are optimistic that a successor aerospace company will pick up the advances in technology made to-date and continue with a similar type program,” said Donovan. “…Construction consisting of building new taxiways and roads, installing utilities, and preparing building sites to the extent that they are ‘shovel ready’ will continue on the north side of the airport. Our grant funding was not specifically for any single tenant but for multiple users.”
The statement added: “Aerion Supersonic only leases acreage and building space from MLB. The company was responsible for all vertical construction. It’s too early to know if these lease agreements will be dissolved entirely or reassigned but our staff is starting the work on it today.”
DeSantis’ office provided a statement made by economic development agency Space Florida, saying the governor’s position is the same.
According to that statement: “Space Florida is waiting while Aerion evaluates its next steps. Developments like this are an understood part of the commercial business landscape. Until a formal decision is made by the company, we will decline to comment further.”
In January this year, Aerion said it had concluded an agreement with design, engineering and construction firm Haskell to build Aerion Park on a 110-acre site at MLB from 2021-22. Haskell did not respond to a request for comment.