Long Island is taxiing back toward the forefront of aerospace manufacturing.
One year after a ballyhooed test flight of its solar-powered VO Substrata solar-powered aircraft, Luminati Aerospace LLC held a grand reopening of sorts Friday, cutting the ribbon on Plant 6 at its Enterprise Park at Calverton facility – once a thriving manufacturing hub for Grumman Aerospace Corp.
The ceremony included former NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, Cradle of Aviation Museum Executive Director Andrew Parton and a host of other elected officials, who joined Luminati Aerospace partners, engineers and scientists for a tour of the plant and the 2,900-acre former Grumman Naval Base.
The circa-1956 aerodrome, which features two working runways, served four decades as a Grumman hub, with the aerospace titan developing, assembling and testing a range of combat aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Grumman officially pulled out of its Calverton base in 1994, when the Town of Riverhead took over the property.
Its past will become its future, according to Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston, a serial entrepreneur who said he was “very proud” to oversee the return of aerospace manufacturing to the site “after a hiatus of more than a quarter of a century.”
“Luminati’s plans will reestablish Calverton’s and Long Island’s prominent position in aviation research and manufacturing,” Preston said Friday. “The manned and unmanned aircraft our facility can mass produce will feed into a variety of critical Luminati projects.”
The Plant 6 ceremony came just one day after published reports quoted the Riverhead supervisor’s office as stating Facebook, an early backer of Luminati Aerospace’s EPCAL adventure, was pulling out, and the would-be manufacturer was “lining up new financing sources.” In March, Luminati signed a letter of intent to acquire the EPCAL site for $40 million.
On Friday, Walter’s support of Preston’s startup and the pending real estate deal was unreserved.
“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined reintroducing the aviation and defense industry back to EPCAL to this extent,” the Riverhead town supervisor said in a statement. “The Luminati deal will recreate Long Island’s glorious past with the defense and aviation industries and once again positively transform the regional Long Island economy.”
Luminati Aerospace on Friday also announced the formation of an advisory board to “help guide the aviation company through its technologically sophisticated initiatives and other projects,” including Lt. General David Deptula (U.S. Air Force, retired), a three-star general and former first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; Jeffrey Harris, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office and former president of Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Space Company; and Jerry Howe, counsel in New York City law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP’s Government Contracts, Mergers & Acquisitions and Aerospace & Defense practice groups.
Also joining the advisory board are Robert Tamaru, former vice president of technology and strategic development for Boeing subsidiary Argon ST, and Anthony Tether, former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.