The U.S. Air Force and Beta Technologies conducted a crewed test flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, dubbed Alia, on March 9, at the company’s testing facility in Plattsburgh, New York.
Alia can transport passengers and cargo and is a fully electric aircraft with zero emissions and can be recharged for less than an hour, the Air Force Research Laboratory said Monday.
The eVTOL aircraft, which secured an Air Force airworthiness approval in 2021, has a wingspan of 50 feet and can travel at a speed of about 150 knots and at a range of 250 nautical miles.
Two Air Force pilots – Maj. Jonathan Appleby and Hank “Hog” Griffiths – conducted the flight demonstration a day after undergoing simulator training. They flew with Beta test pilots Camron Guthrie and Lochie Ferrier.
“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,” said Griffiths. “We need government pilots to accomplish those evaluations and this is the first step in developing the training and experimentation plans to do so.”
In 2020, Beta and Air Force engineers started work on the eVTOL aircraft through the AFWERX’s Agility Prime program, which seeks to accelerate the commercialization of air mobility vehicles. The company is partnering with the service branch under the second phase of a Small Business Innovation Research contract.