Santa Cruz-based aircraft manufacturer Joby Aviation Inc. passed a major milestone Wednesday in its effort to make electric flying taxis a reality.

The company received a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to flight-test its production prototype electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, known as an eVTOL. It has been test flying pre-production models since 2019, but this is the first model built in a streamlined production facility.

“Today’s achievement is the culmination of years of investment in our processes and technology and it marks a major step on our journey to scaled production,” said JoeBen Bevirt, Joby’s founder and CEO.

The Monterey County connection

The advancement comes a day after the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to explore a major expansion of the pilot production facility at Marina Municipal Airport where the prototype was built and test flights will launch.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to explore an agreement with Joby to expand its facility at the Marina Airport to build a 585,000-square-foot facility that would manufacture and assemble the new type of electric aircraft that uses a collection of six propellers to take off and land vertically.

YouTube video
Joby Aviation’s prototype eVTOL aircraft is demonstrated in a company promotional video. (Joby Aviation/YouTube)

The vote Tuesday allows the county’s economic development director to start negotiating with the publicly traded company, which has received substantial investment from Toyota.

The project would seek to utilize what is called a Capital Investment Incentive Program, or CIIP, which is a state program that allows counties to offer limited property tax rebates for certain manufacturing facilities with property value of $150 million or more. The proposal is for the county to provide rebates for Joby that would help the company build and maintain the facility for 15 years, before the funds would be redirected to their regular collection schedule.

“California is proud to be home to some of the world’s most innovative companies. Joby is changing the game when it comes to the next frontier of flight: zero emission aviation.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom

During the length of the CIIP, Monterey County would still collect a percentage of the property tax revenue, which would generate an estimated $250,000 annually. After the rebates sunset, the county would receive an estimated $1.4 million from the facility’s property taxes annually, according to projections by county staff.

The production facility could employ about 1,800 people, according to preliminary estimates from Joby. Jobs would be in management, manufacturing, assembly and more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (right) talks with Joby Aviation’s founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt in front of the first eVTOL aircraft to come off Joby’s pilot production line in Marina. Newsom toured the facility on June 25, 2023. (Courtesy Joby Aviation)

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Marina facility Sunday to view the completed production prototype and offer support for the nascent industry.

“California is proud to be home to some of the world’s most innovative companies. Joby is changing the game when it comes to the next frontier of flight: zero emission aviation,” Newsom said.

If an agreement is reached between the county and Joby, and the proposal is approved, it will be presented to the state for approval of the CIIP.