While all eyes marvel at the ongoing development of the eVTOL Aircraft from Archer, Joby and AutoFlight to Volocopter, Lilium, Vertical Aerospace and the like, a lesser known company is ahead of their progress, yet flies under the public’s radar – the Beta Technologies electric-powered ‘Alia-250’.
The company announced this week its second successful flight across America, all of 876 miles in length. This seems astonishing given the better-known eVTOL companies have either barely got off the ground or only flown short flights in the sky.
Yet, it was on May 23rd the Alia (N250UT) began its first mammoth journey across the U.S. Taking off from Plattsburgh International Airport in eastern New York, near Lake Champlain and the border with Vermont, it flew in a south westerly direction towards Akron, Ohio. Then onward to Springfield, Ohio and Bloomington, Indiana, before pushing into Illinois, Missouri, and finally Bentonville, Arkansas.
The craft landed at designated battery charging points twice a day, where flight legs ranged from around 160 miles to as long as 211, with an average flying time of 88 minutes. All told, over the eight days the mission lasted, the aircraft was in the air for nearly 12 hours completing a journey of… wait for this… 1,403 miles. (Please watch the video below).
Manon Belzile, a Beta team member, enthusiastically commented, “It was awesome. The craft flew super well with no hiccups. It was like a dream come true. In just three years, we had gone from testing in a converted hanger to flying across America.”
Belzile also stated that each flown 160 nautical miles by the electric Alia cost USD19 dollars, whereas the petrol charges for the Cessna Caravan chase plane that accompanied it throughout the cross country flight was “USD800 bucks” compared to Alia’s USD166 dollars. Yet, somehow this pioneering and heroic journey never gained the full accolades it deserved.
Six months on, Beta decided to carry out a similar journey along a similar flight path, but of a shorter duration. This time there were seven stops to recharge; taking five days to complete, after a hold-up for snow in New York; where the Alia flew over four American states; completed up to three daily flights; flying in and out of busy airspace including three Class C airports and one Class B airspace; operated in cold, winter conditions; and conducted flights with a small crew.
Pete Buttigieg with Beta CEO Kyle Clark (bottom right)
This time the Alia completed its journey at UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, where Beta then introduced the aircraft to U.S Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.
All flights were single piloted, rotating between two of Beta’s test pilots, Lochie Ferrier and Nick Warren. The craft and team successfully demonstrated critical technical and operational developments since the previous mission in May.
Yet, there is “a small catch” to this uplifting story.
The Alia-250 is not technically a pure eVTOL Aircraft… yet! That will come when the company fully focuses on its evolved second prototype – the Alia-250c – which began hovering trials back in the Spring. The craft that has carried out both flights across America is an actual eCTOL flying in an electric conventional takeoff and landing configuration.
Meanwhile, Beta Technologies remains on course to certify the fully-fledged eVTOL Alia in late 2024 or early 2025. In fact, this could become fully certified before the majority of its competition.
Alia Pilot Lochie Ferrier
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