Monterey County Now | Erik Chalhoub Apr 29, 2024

Joby Aviation sees the future of mobility as up in the air—not figuratively, but literally.

Erik Chalhoub here, having started my day off at Joby’s Marina facility, where it broke ground (figuratively this time, not literally) on an expansion project to build toward that future in the skies.

The Santa Cruz-based company is developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to be used as air taxis for commercial passenger service, and is working with Toyota for its manufacturing experience. It set up a 120,000-square-foot research and development facility at the Marina Municipal Airport in 2019, and in June 2023, unveiled its first production prototype aircraft.

While Joby passed on Marina that same year to build a massive factory—instead opting for Dayton, Ohio—it views the Central Coast and its Marina facility as a critical component of its growing operation.

“Because of the success we’ve had here, we’ve decided to expand,” said Didier Papadopoulos, Joby’s president of Aircraft OEM, on Monday, April 29 to a crowd that included dozens of Joby employees as well as government officials and others. “It will be more than twice of all the footprint we have here in Marina. It’s going to allow us to deliver 25 aircraft a year.”

In March, Joby announced it will deliver two aircraft to the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida in 2025, part of its contract with the U.S. Air Force that saw the company also deliver an aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2023.

Last week, Joby signed an agreement with three United Arab Emirates government departments that paves the way for future air taxi services in that country.

During Monday’s event in Marina, the company unveiled its second prototype that just rolled off the production line.

“If you look in that building today, you can see there’s a lot that’s happening,” Papadopoulos said. “It’s hopping. It’s very busy. This building is the heartbeat of our business.”

In November 2023, Joby received a $9.8 million grant from the California Competes program, run by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, to help finance its Marina expansion. Those funds will be complemented by a $41.3 million investment from Joby itself throughout California.

Joby did not provide a specific number of jobs the new facility will add, but said it is expected to be in the “hundreds.”

Bonny Simi, president of operations at Joby, said the expansion will also later house pilot training and maintenance facilities. The company also recently received a $500,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a maintenance training program in Marina.

As someone who loves cars and getting around on four wheels, even I’m intrigued by Joby’s vision of a future where we can be taxied around by an experienced pilot at speeds of up to 200mph.

As Doc Brown once said in Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” The classic movie may not have been that far off in its prediction.

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