South Burlington, Vermont-based BETA Technologies continues to pursue both commercial and defense customers. A spokesperson shared recent achievements and near-term milestones with Marty Kauchak, Halldale Group Editor.

Looking first at the technical side, BETA “made strong progress” during 2022 in its dual approach to flight testing strategy with both of its ALIA prototypes. One prototype is configured for CTOL (conventional takeoff and landing) – as the aircraft will spend more than 98% of its time on the wing during flight – and the other is configured for VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing). A BETA spokesperson related, “We completed multiple long-range, multi-state missions with our CTOL-configured test article, and achieved a manoeuvring hover with our VTOL aircraft early into last year.” 

The OEM also deepened and expanded relationships with its roster of committed customers and partners. “We completed the first crewed flight of an electric aircraft with both the Air Force and Army; later in the year, we welcomed Bristow, LCI, and Air New Zealand as new customers; and we secured additional funding from financial institutions and funds.” 

At first glance, an eVTOL OEM may be tempted to enlist new customers for both the commercial and defense markets, and quickly commit to meet their burgeoning mission lists. Not so with BETA, as it is taking a pragmatic approach to the new sector, focusing first on meeting cargo, medical, and defense missions – with an eye toward the passenger market in the future. The spokesperson explained, “We have firm orders from industry-leading operators across these sectors, including UPS, United Therapeutics, which will use ALIA to transport synthetic organs, aircraft lessor LCI, and Bristow, the world’s largest operator of vertical lift aircraft, and urban air mobility operator Blade. At the end of 2022, we partnered with Air New Zealand as part of its Mission NextGen aircraft program, to help the company as it focuses on developing technology and infrastructure to make sustainable aviation a reality.”

The Electric Military

On the defense side of the company’s portfolio, last March two test pilots from the Air Force joined BETA in Burlington, “where they received a rigorous ground school academics course taught by the subject matter experts who built each system on our aircraft; completed simulation training and flight test rehearsals in our onsite simulator; and flew full-pattern demos in our ALIA aircraft.” 

In July, BETA completed the same exercise with a test pilot from the Army. The spokesperson further explained, “These flights were important steps in our partnerships, marking the first time an airman from either branch flew an electric aircraft and signifying the military’s readiness to procure and integrate electric aircraft into its fleet. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our defense partners in 2023.” 

BETA’s aircraft are designed to be simple and pragmatic – with that philosophy being an underpinning for training. “With this in mind, we’ve designed our aircraft to incorporate as many legacy elements as possible, from the avionics to the flight controls. We believe this design will create a streamlined training environment for both new and existing aviators, minimizing the new and novel features they need to learn to operate our electric aircraft,” the spokesperson pointed out. 

The OEM is not going it alone in training, having partnered with CAE to develop its emergent training enterprise. The spokesperson noted that as an OEM, it is BETA’s goal to set operators up with all of the tools they need to utilize its aircraft simply and safely – and that includes training materials for pilots and maintainers. “We continue to work with CAE to build out a training curriculum to teach the future workforce that will be operating ALIA. We’ve already begun putting this type of education into practice, developing extensive ground school curriculums and simulator training programs to prepare our military partners for their demo flights.”

2023 BETA Testing

BETA continues to make strong progress toward commercialization. In 2022 BETA broke ground on its aircraft manufacturing facility in South Burlington, Vermont, and expects it will come online later this year. “On the technical side, we continue to advance along our rigorous flight test and safety validation programs, pressing forward toward certification.”