Oct 26, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Electric plane lands in Florida for Air Force testing after 2,000-mile journey

A Beta Technologies ALIA aircraft flies over Washington, D.C., in October. Photo: Beta Technologies.

A milestone in electric aviation took place Thursday afternoon, when Beta Technologies landed its ALIA eVTOL aircraft at Duke Field, at Eglin Air Force Base, for a deployment period with the U.S. Air Force.

The big picture: During its 2,000-mile journey from Burlington, Vermont, to Florida, the plane completed multiple short and long distance legs.

  • Beta is working with the military to test the aircraft for resupply missions, cargo delivery and personnel transport, the company said.
  • Beta also envisions demand from air cargo companies and biotechnology firms interested in cutting costs and emissions for short cargo feeder flights and organ donation transport, among other uses.
  • The company recently opened its factory at Burlington International Airport.
  • It has numerous competitors within the eVTOL space, including Joby Aviation, which also has an agreement with the military.

Zoom in: Beta says it charged the aircraft on its own charging station network during four of its stops, including at a new location near Boston.

  • Beta has 14 deployed chargers, with another 60 under development, the company said in a statement.
  • The aircraft flew over Washington, D.C., becoming the first electric aircraft to fly through the highly restricted airspace, before landing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

What's next: Beta and the Air Force will spend the next few months testing the ALIA eVTOL, with a simulator of the aircraft also on location at Duke Field.

  • The company has firm orders from UPS, Bristow, Blade and United Therapeutics.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that ALIA's 386-mile flight took place earlier, not during the latest 2,000 mile journey.

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