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USAF test-flies BETA’s ALIA eVTOL with military pilots on board

The US Air Force Materiel Command reports United States Air Force pilots Hank “Hog” Griffiths and Maj. Jonathan Appleby flew BETA Technologies’ electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, ALIA, as the first-ever airmen to fly an electric aircraft with a military airworthiness certificate on March 9.

According to a press statement:

“This milestone, which took place at BETA’s Plattsburgh, New York, hangar and testing facility–just 35 miles from its South Burlington, Vermont headquarters–is the culmination of a two-year partnership between BETA and the Agility Prime program. Since partnering in 2020, Air Force engineers have worked alongside BETA’s flight test team to develop and refine the ALIA aircraft to make electric aviation a reality. ALIA has made significant technical advancements throughout the partnership. In addition to last week’s achievement, in 2021, BETA was also awarded the first Air Force airworthiness approval for an electric aircraft with personnel on board. The partnership is currently operating under a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract.

“The ALIA aircraft, which has been in development for over three years, is fully electric with zero operational emissions. Though it was created to be a cargo carrier, fitting a pilot and three standard pallets, the aircraft can seat up to five passengers, plus a pilot. ALIA is a nod to the Arctic tern, which travels further than any other migratory bird and demonstrates remarkable capability in transporting from pole to pole each year, covering nearly 25,000 miles. With ALIA, BETA has thus targeted a range of 250 nautical miles and a current top speed of approximately 150 knots, with a recharge time of under an hour and a wingspan of 50 feet. In addition to the aircraft, BETA is also rolling out a cross-country charging infrastructure to power electric transportation. To date, the company has more than 60 charging stations online or in development from Vermont to Arkansas, with additional sites planned.”

According to Griffiths:

“Today’s Air Force qualitative evaluation flight is the first of many that we will be doing with BETA Technologies and our other Agility Prime vendors,” Griffiths said. “In addition to accelerating these company’s 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 those evaluations and this is the first step in developing the training and experimentation plans to do so.”

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