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Vital NJ Aviation Center drives the future of flight

✈ Federal law aims to make flying safer

✈ The facility for testing new innovations remains in South Jersey

✈ New technologies include hydrogen engines and flying taxis


EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The third aviation revolution is underway and it’s happening in South Jersey.

The first revolution was the first flight of the Wright brothers in 1903; the second was the development of the jet engine during World War II.

More than 3,000 scientists and engineers work at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, where Vice Director Eric Neiderman says the third revolution is taking place. These employees have two main tasks.

William J. Hughes Technical Center (FAA)

William J. Hughes Technical Center (FAA)

The first job is to make sure that any new technology a company wants to put on aircraft is safe. Second, they develop and test new air traffic control technologies to make takeoffs and landings safer and more efficient.

“The Tech Center enables the future, advances aerospace locally and makes aviation safer worldwide,” said Neiderman.

Hughes Technical Center remains in South Jersey

According to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., 2nd District, the FAA Reauthorization Act 2024, which President Joe Biden signed earlier this month, allows the facility to remain in Egg Harbor Township, where it has been for 65 years.

“This work is critical to our fight to maintain America's position as a global aviation leader and to preserve our competitiveness against rivals like China,” Van Drew said. He also said the facility will be renamed the FAA William J. Hughes Center for Advanced Aerospace.

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There were plans to split the facility into three separate labs and relocate parts out of state, which would have significant impacts on South Jersey.

According to a 2020 economic impact study, the Technical Center brings nearly $1.5 billion to the region and is responsible for approximately 9,140 jobs in the South Jersey economy.

Hydrogen engines and flying taxis tested in South Jersey

According to the technical center's deputy director, Neiderman, the world of the Jetsons could be in the not too distant future.

Innovations currently being tested include new types of propulsion, including hydrogen and electric propulsion. High-performance computers and new types of air taxis that fly around instead of ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft are also in development.

William J. Hughes Technical Center (FAA)

William J. Hughes Technical Center (FAA)

“It’s just a time of innovation, investment and excitement,” Neiderman said.

Engineers at the technology center have also recently begun evaluating innovations in the field of drones. There is potential to integrate drones into commercial airlines, private aircraft and helicopters.

“Think about it. From pizza delivery to medical care to providing first responders in an emergency. And the technology is also very exciting in terms of increasing automation. And I think that has far-reaching implications for aviation,” Neiderman said.

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