After receiving a Military Flight Release (MFR) and airworthiness approval from the U.S Air Force in May of last year, Beta Technologies’ Alia aircraft has now taken its first military crewed demonstration flight, which was flown by two Air Force test pilots over two hours of total flight time across Lake Champlain.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not allow experimental aircraft to fly from their base airport to another airport until they have undergone rigorous testing to prove their safety in doing so. Marking a major step for Beta Technologies, this latest military crewed flight of the aircraft departed from the company’s primary test location in Plattsburgh, New York, to fly across Lake Champlain to the company’s headquarters in nearby Burlington, Vermont; a distance of about 35 miles. Each pilot took a turn flying the aircraft for around one hour each, after studying the flight characteristics through Beta Technologies’ flight simulators.
Said Hank Griffith’s, one of the pilots of the Alia, “Today’s USAF qualitative evaluation flight is the first of many that we will be doing with Beta Technologies and our other Agility Prime vendors. In addition to accelerating these companies’ path to FAA type certification by providing access to USAF engineering expertise and test infrastructure, we are also evaluating these prototypes for opportunities to utilize them for unique military missions. We need government pilots to accomplish these evaluations, and this is the first step in developing the training and experimentation plans to do so.”
Beta Technologies is one of the top growing eVTOL aircraft developers in the U.S, among others such as Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation. The latest version of its aircraft, The Alia, will be able to cruise at speeds up to 170mph, with a flight ranges of over 200 miles. In addition to its growing partnership with the U.S Air Force, the company has also recently raised over $368 million from companies like Amazon and Fidelity, with a total valuation of about $1.4 billion.
Why It’s Important: With its growing partnership with the U.S Air Force, and its impressive progress along the path to certification, Beta Technologies is set to be one the first and most prominent eVTOL makers to bring their aircraft to market in the United States. Based in Burlington, Vermont, the company has been in operation since 2017, has already installed over 60 charging sites throughout the U.S, has raised over $350 million, and plans to begin commercial operations by 2024. This latest test flight shows that the company and its aircraft is quickly moving forward on the path to commercial operations, and has gained the safety confidence it needs to begin administering crewed flights to outside organizations.