Beta Technologies’ Alia prototype conducted a public flight demonstration in Louisiana on February 7, marking the first flight of an electric aircraft in the Bayou State, according to the Vermont-based manufacturer. The Alia aircraft arrived in Louisiana on February 5, two weeks after it wrapped up a three-month deployment on a U.S. Air Force base in Florida.
Together with its partner and customer Bristow Group, Beta hosted a viewing event for the flight at Houma-Terrebonne Airport (KHUM), located about 50 miles southwest of New Orleans. More than 100 attendees witnessed the flight, including Beta customers, local politicians, and airport officials. The piloted prototype made two passes over the airport during the flight, which lasted less than 10 minutes, a company spokesperson told AIN.
The airplane that flew in Louisiana was built as a prototype for Beta’s eVTOL aircraft, although it does not have vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. Last year Beta announced it would pursue FAA type certification for the conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) configuration of its electric aircraft in addition to the previously planned Alia 250 eVTOL model.
The eCTOL version, called CX300, is expected to enter service in 2025, followed by the Alia 250 eVTOL in 2026. Both can carry a pilot plus five passengers or up to 1,400 pounds (635 kilograms) of cargo. While Beta anticipates its eVTOL aircraft will have a range of 250 miles, the eCTOL prototype has flown as far as 386 miles (621 kilometers) on a single charge during flight tests.
Bristow Group, which operates a global fleet of more than 240 rotorcraft, placed a firm order in August 2022 for five Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft with options for another 50. After Beta announced its plans to certify the conventional CX300 model, Bristow placed an additional deposit-backed order for 50 CX300s. Bristow primarily serves customers in the oil and gas sector, although it also provides charter flights and search-and-rescue services.
As the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry has been picking up steam over the past few years, Bristow has been making plans to electrify its fleet. The company has placed orders and signed provisional sales agreements with several other electric aircraft manufacturers, including Lilium, Vertical Aerospace, Electra, Eve Air Mobility, Overair, and Elroy Air.
“We believe aircraft like Beta’s Alia will play an important part in the future of aviation. These new technologies have the potential to make certain missions more efficient, quieter, more accessible, and more sustainable,” said Bristow president and CEO Chris Bradshaw. “We view AAM as a natural extension of Bristow’s core competencies of safe and reliable vertical flight solutions, and we see multiple avenues for Bristow to participate in the emerging AAM value chain.”
Under its plans to lay the groundwork for electric aircraft operations, Beta recently announced the installation of a pair of recharging stations at Alabama's Montgomery Regional Airport. The equipment was installed last week in partnership with Alabama Power. At an event on February 5, officials from the power company, the airport, Alabama's Department of Transportation watched an Alia aircraft land and take the inaugural charge.
Beta has now installed chargers at 17 sites across the U.S. and it is working on 55 additional locations for public and private applications with commercial, military, and medical partners. The equipment it has developed in-house can charge batteries for multiple aircraft types and ground vehicles.
"As we move closer to getting electric aircraft into operation, it is critical that we are building charging infrastructure where our customers need it," said Beta's chief operations officer Blain Newton. "Montgomery marks the first charger in Alabama as we continue to deploy our chargers in key markets that will help accelerate connectivity among regional and rural communities."