Helicopter operator Bristow is continuing to expand into the advanced air mobility (AAM) market with plans to acquire as many as 55 Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft from Beta Technologies. The company announced on August 9 that it has placed a firm order for five of Beta’s electrically powered aircraft with the option to purchase an additional 50 units. The announcement did not state whether a deposit has been paid or provide other details of the terms of the agreement.
“This order firmly positions Bristow as an early adopter and leader in pragmatically developing AAM operations and ushering in a new era in vertical lift solutions,” said Bristow executive vice president and chief transformation officer Dave Stepanek.
Vermont-based Beta Technologies is developing the all-electric Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft for civilian and military uses. It can carry six people, including a pilot, or up to 1,400 pounds (635 kg) of cargo across distances of up to 250 miles (400 km), flying at a top speed of about 170 mph (270 km/h). The aircraft’s propulsion system features four vertical lift propellers mounted on beams that run perpendicular to a 50-foot fixed wing. At the rear of the fuselage is a single pusher propeller.
“We designed Alia with reliability, efficiency, and the highest-value cargo in mind, all of which are central to the types of critical missions Bristow carries out on a global stage," said Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of Beta Technologies. "Over the past few months, we've made strides with our flight test program, proving the aircraft is capable of performing in conditions it will see in service.”
Beta plans to have its Alia 250 aircraft certified and ready to start commercial operations in 2025. The aircraft received airworthiness approval from the U.S. Air Force in May 2021, and Air Force pilots have already conducted some crewed demonstration flights with an Alia prototype.
Other Beta customers include the Dublin-based aircraft leasing group LCI, which plans to add up to 125 Alia eVTOL aircraft to its portfolio, and New York-based Blade Urban Air Mobility, which aims to add up to 20 of the aircraft to its passenger transportation services network. UPS has also announced plans to buy up to 150 units for cargo delivery services, and the United Therapeutics medical technology group has committed to buying an unspecified number of the aircraft to use for the time-sensitive transportation of human organs for transplants.
Houston-based Bristow operates a worldwide fleet of more than 240 rotorcraft and provides a variety of aviation services. It has mainly served customers in the oil and gas sector, but also provides charter flights and search-and-rescue services. The company plans to use the Alia aircraft “to safely and reliably move passengers and time-sensitive cargo as part of the development of new regional mobility networks in the U.S. and other strategic locations,” Stepanek said.
This week, Bristow reported improved first quarter financial results with revenues reaching $301.7 million for the three months to June 30, compared with $287.4 million in the fourth quarter of its 2022 financial year. The group reported net income of $4 million in the latest quarter, after recording a $4.3 million loss in the quarter ending March 31.
In July, Bristow released its first sustainability report, which summarized its strategy to move into operations of new eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft. Last week, it completed the acquisition of British International Helicopter Services.
Beta Technologies is just the latest in a growing list of eVTOL developers with whom Bristow has made commitments to purchase new aircraft. Last month Bristow signed two non-binding agreements with San Francisco-based Elroy Air and the German eVTOL developer Lilium to purchase 100 Chaparral hybrid-electric VTOL air cargo vehicles and 50 Lilium Jets, respectively. Bristow has also previously pre-ordered up to 50 of Overair’s Butterfly eVTOL aircraft, up to 100 of Eve’s eVTOL aircraft, and at least 25 Vertical Aerospace VX4 eVTOLS.