New partnership paves way for ‘flying car’ in Piedmont-Triad

WINSTON-SALEM, NC (WGHP) – Flying cars.

Decades ago, they seemed too futuristic to be true. Today, they are just hovering on the horizon, and when they become reality, the Piedmont-Triad will be ahead.

“A fun fact is that George Jensen’s birthday is actually August 2022,” said Basil Yap, president of the nonprofit Aerox, in a nod to the 1960s sitcom The Jetsons. “So he was born in the future.”

While the flying cars we eventually experience look very different from those depicted in the animated series, they resemble the two rotor-based crafts the world has been accustomed to for a long and a short time. Think of it as a mix between a helicopter and a drone.

“We’re closer to the flying car than we thought,” Yap added.

That’s where North Carolina — and the Piedmont-Triad in particular — begins with a recently announced partnership between AeroX, the renowned aeronautical science and unmanned aircraft institute at Elizabeth City State University, and Piedmont Flight Training, based at Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston. Salem.

“This is huge for the Piedmont-Triad,” said Paris Pederick, president of Ignosis Management, which oversees Piedmont flight training.

As Pederic explains, Smith Reynolds Airport offers features that many flight schools cannot offer, such as a mix of tower and ground control in addition to corporate flight traffic. With the agreement between AeroX, ECSU and PFT, students from ten surrounding counties will be able to take online courses with training at the airport.

The real kicker, however, is the cost.

“It’s really exciting because the cost is so low, I think we’ll get a lot of interest,” Yap said.

Through the North Carolina Promise tuition plan, in-state students will be able to train to enter the air mobility workforce for just $500 a semester.

“The aviation sector, just advanced air mobility — not even existing aviation — is forecast to be $1.5 trillion by 2040,” said David Mounts, managing partner of AeroX Ventures. “It’s going to be a huge industry.”

The degree awarded by the program is the same four-year aviation degree offered individually at ECSU. With the goal of expanding aviation education, strengthening and diversifying the aviation workforce, and building autonomous urban aircraft infrastructure in North Carolina.

“When the news first broke…I think we got over ten phone calls in one day,” said Dr. Kuldeep Rawat said while referring to the initial announcement of the program.

As Mounts explained, the average salary in the aviation sector is about $100,000 a year and careers tend to be sustainable while staying local.

“It doesn’t just mean captains and commercial airlines,” he said. “It’s across the industry.”

The key here, as the industry expands, is to ensure that the next generation of workers is being trained to meet future demands.

“It’s going to affect every single industry,” Mounts said of advanced air mobility.

In a state known as “first in flight,” Mounts believes it’s even more important to be “next in flight.”

“The goal is really to make sure America is a leader in this industry, and really that leadership starts here in North Carolina,” he added.

For more information about the program and the organizations involved, click here.

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