Beta Technologies’ Alia Electric Aircraft, Crew Arrive at Eglin AFB for Testing Program

Air Force pilots will help evaluate the airplane’s performance on mission, including resupply and personnel transport.

Beta Technologies’ Alia electric aircraft flies over Washington, D.C., on its way to Duke Field. [Courtesy: Beta Technologies]

Beta Technologies said its Alia electric aircraft landed Thursday at Duke Field, a subsidiary of Eglin Air Force Base, to begin a months-long deployment period with the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft, which made a series of flights down the East Coast to reach the base in Florida, is to be used for a series of experiments.

The Alia’s arrival at Duke marks the company’s first delivery of an aircraft to a contracted partner and the Air Force’s receipt of its first manned Beta aircraft. Beta recently worked with the Air Force to arrange the installation and commissioning of one of the company’s chargers at Duke Field earlier this month.

Beta said the aircraft and its main flight testing team will stay at Duke for several months to work with the 413th Squadron to conduct hands-on experimentation and training with the Alia and its related technology. As part of the program, the Air Force will test and validate potential uses for the aircraft, including critical resupply, cargo delivery, and personnel transport.

During the trip from its home field in Plattsburgh, New York (KPBG), the Beta crew flew the Alia more than 1,500 nm across 12 states using a special market research certificate issued by the FAA. The company said it used the series of flights to test the aircraft in many challenging scenarios, such as flying through Boston’s Class B airspace and the Flight Restricted Zone around Washington, D.C. Beta also met with local airport and municipal officials during its many stops along the route and marked the installation of a charging station at Marshfield Municipal Airport (KHGH) in Massachusetts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month.

The company also held a groundbreaking event for the first electric aircraft charger in North Carolina at Raleigh Executive Jetport (KTTA), a project conducted in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and AFWERX, an Air Force program that fosters innovation within its ranks.

“For the past several years, AFWERX has provided critical input and support to the Beta programs. Deploying Alia for experimentation and training at Duke Field is the natural next step in our partnership,” said Kyle Clark, Beta’s founder and CEO. “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Air Force over the next few months as we work together to assess how the economic, sustainability, and energy independence benefits of electric aviation can serve our military.”

To supplement its collaboration, Beta provided a mobile simulator for training Air Force pilots in preparation for operations in the full-size Alia aircraft.

“The Department of the Air Force is constantly searching for the next generation of technology to make our warfighters safer and more efficient,” said Colonel Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force. “As agile innovators, we believe that partnering with American businesses is the key to this goal for delivering disruptive air capabilities.”

Beta said its Alia eCTOL and eVTOL aircraft continue to progress toward FAA certification. The company said it anticipates the eCTOL model will enter service in 2025 followed by the eVTOL in 2026.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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