Beta's CEO meets Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after its electric aircraft makes milestone multi-state flight
Beta Technologies, a rapidly growing aviation startup based in South Burlington, recently flew its prototype electric airplane from Plattsburgh, New York to Kentucky. The flight was the company’s second this year to cross multiple states, marking another milestone as Beta works to bring its aircraft to market. And while in Kentucky, Beta’s CEO met U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
According to a company spokesperson, the 761 nautical mile journey took five days. Beta’s aircraft, known as Alia, left Plattsburgh on Nov. 30th and landed in Louisville, Ky. Dec. 3rd, after making six charging stops in three different states along the way. The legs of the trip ranged from 55 to 176 miles. The electric aircraft held a single pilot throughout the trip, without any cargo on board.
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A conventional Cessna Caravan plane accompanied Alia throughout the journey. Earlier this year, Alia completed a similar multi-day flight from Plattsburgh to Bentonville, Arkansas, the corporate home of Wal-Mart. This most recent flight was completed in colder conditions, while flying in and out of busier airspace, the spokesperson noted.
In Louisville, Beta brought the plane to a UPS logistics hub known as Worldport. UPS is a prospective customer of Beta’s. Last year, the shipping company ordered 10 of Beta's aircraft to be delivered in 2024, with an option to purchase up to 150.
Alia’s stay at Worldport also coincided with Buttigieg’s visit to the facility. Buttigieg’s office confirmed to Vermont Public that the transportation secretary and former presidential hopeful checked out Beta’s aircraft and visited with company CEO Kyle Clark. Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation houses the Federal Aviation Administration, whose approval Beta will need in order to sell its product to customers like UPS.
Beta has high hopes that it will be able to gain FAA certification for Alia by 2024, though that timeline remains uncertain. The company has so far raised over $800 million from private investors, and has hired several hundred employees, most of them in Vermont. But it also faces competition from large, well-funded startups including Joby Aviation and Archer, which are also aiming to bring electric aircraft into service in the next three years.
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Beta is designing Alia as an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL, which would take off vertically like a helicopter, then fly like a plane. While Beta is testing vertical takeoff, it has been flying Alia as a conventional airplane on longer journeys. The company has marketed the aircraft as a way to haul cargo, though it may also be used to ferry passengers over short distances.
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