Blade Air Mobility and Beta Technologies have conducted a joint test flight with the Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft as a prelude to plans for air taxi services in the New York City area. The six-passenger vehicle flew out of Westchester-County Airport in White Plains, New York, which is about 37 miles from midtown Manhattan.
Charter flight provider Blade aims to launch eVTOL flights in 2025, having made a commitment in April 2021 to add 20 Alia-250s to its network. The all-electric aircraft will be owned and flown by its operating partners in its U.S. network, with Beta providing charging infrastructure at multiple locations.
According to Beta, the flight was the first involving a piloted eVTOL aircraft in the New York City area. The aircraft flew to Westchester from the company’s test facility at Plattsburgh in upstate New York with a stop in Schenectady to recharge its batteries. The manufacturer already has three charging stations in the state, and four more sites in development.
During the demonstration flight from Westchester, the Alia-250 flew alongside a helicopter and then completed a solo pass above the airport to demonstrate its low noise profile. According to Beta, the eVTOL vehicle generates just one-tenth of the noise levels of a typical rotorcraft.
Initially, Beta is mainly targeting cargo applications for the Alia-250, but says that passenger use cases are also part of its business model. “Blade is flying passengers in key urban markets all over the world, and this flight is another step toward delivering our electric aircraft to support these operations,” commented Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “We continue to progress our aircraft, flying real-life missions and gaining proficiency in the national airspace.”
Over the past three years, Beta has had two full-scale prototypes involved in flight testing as it works towards achieving FAA certification in 2024. In partnership with the FAA and the National Insitute for Aviation Research, the company has also conducted a 50-foot drop test of its full-scale battery packs.
Last year, the aircraft was flown by U.S. Air Force and Army test pilots as part of efforts to assess potential military applications for eVTOL aircraft. In addition to Blade, operators UPS and Bristow, as well as leasing group LCI and medical group United Therapeutics have made provisional commitments to purchase the Alia-250.
“This demonstration is a big milestone in our transition from helicopters to electric vertical aircraft, and we are pleased our partners at Beta have designed the right aircraft with the requisite range, capacity, and noise profile for use in our key markets, including our home base of New York City,” commented Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal.