Aviation innovator JetZero is expanding its footprint in Long Beach, moving into a massive office and hangar space at the airport, Mayor Rex Richardson announced Tuesday.

The company, which is developing a new type of aircraft with wings blended into the body for commercial and military uses, is taking over about 275,000 square feet of space just south of the historic terminal building, according to co-founder and CEO Tom O’Leary.

“The vast majority of that is hangar space,” O’Leary said. “It’s a phenomenal space for us.”

The space has sat vacant for about three years following the abrupt departure of Gulfstream in 2021. The private jet company announced in October 2020 that it was leaving after 34 years at the airfield, taking around 700 jobs with it. So far it has not fully vacated the city and maintains a small presence at the airport.

Gulfstream’s departure was a surprise to city officials who, at the time, said they were blindsided by the announcement. In 2019, the company had signed a five-year lease extension that expired this year.

JetZero will begin moving into its new space this month, O’Leary said.

“Congratulations to the biggest future tenant at the Long Beach Airport, JetZero,” Richardson said during his State of the City speech where he announced the company’s arrival. “They’re building their plane here.”

JetZero, founded in Long Beach in 2021, announced in August it would receive $235 million over four years from the U.S. Air Force to expedite the development of its aircraft. The infusion of capital has allowed the company to push forward in its mission, O’Leary said, noting that JetZero currently has 100 employees and contractors, with plans to double that figure over the next year.

“The public-private partnership has created a sense of solidity,” O’Leary said. “No one can build an aircraft all by themselves, it takes an ecosystem of suppliers and partners. The support we’re getting is more than we could have imagined.”

A rendering of JetZero’s blended wing body Z5 aircraft. Courtesy of JetZero.

While the military has plans to utilize the craft with various transport configurations and refueling tankers, JetZero remains focused on its commercial uses, including passenger travel and freight, O’Leary said.

As a passenger plane, the aircraft is designed to carry up to 250 passengers with a range of more than 5,754 miles. While traditional aircraft have a clearly defined tube-shaped body with protruding wings, a blended wing body does not have a clear divide between wing and fuselage. The planes are also typically tailless.

The design decreases drag by at least 30%, according to the company, and provides additional lift, which increases efficiency.

The company completed the conceptual phase of its craft last year. The additional square footage will allow the company to move forward with the development of the first scale model of its new aircraft, including the building and testing of various systems, O’Leary said.

Ground and taxi tests are already underway, O’Leary said, adding that the company expects to release flight test results by the end of the first quarter.

Test flights of the full-scale blended-wing-body aircraft are on target for early 2027, O’Leary added.

There were two factors that really drew JetZero to Long Beach, O’Leary said: heritage and access to the area’s talent base. The city has a long history in the aviation sector, including being home to McDonnell Douglas.

JetZero Chief Technology Officer Mark Page, along with Bob Liebeck and Blaine Rawdon, is credited as the inventor of the blended wing body. The trio worked for McDonnell Douglas at the time.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more details clarifying Gulfstream’s departure.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.