Electric aviation company Beta Technologies, which has been developing an eVTOL aircraft since 2017, plans to certify a conventional-style version of its all-electric model, the company announced today. Called the CX300, the fixed-wing, conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft will look similar to the company’s six-seat Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft, but it will take off and land like an airplane. It will not have the ability to take off and land vertically like an eVTOL.
Beta intends to develop and certify the CX300 alongside the Alia-250, with the CX300 being certified under the FAA’s Part 23 rules for small airplanes while the Alia-250 will be certified under the new 21.17 (b) rules for powered lift aircraft. It aims to achieve type certification and begin delivering the aircraft to customers in 2025.
The Vermont-based company has already conducted extensive flight tests with a prototype conventional model. Beta has previously said it was using the conventional airplane prototype to gather data on the aircraft’s performance during wing-borne cruise flight, which is how eVTOL aircraft will spend about 98 percent of their time in the air. Beta has also built a second prototype in an eVTOL configuration, called the Alia-250, which has so far conducted multiple hover flight tests but has not been involved in any of Beta’s lauded cross-country flights.
In December, Beta’s conventional aircraft completed its second cross-country mission, flying 762 nm from Plattsburgh, New York, to Louisville, Kentucky, and making seven stops to recharge along the way. Earlier last year, in May, the aircraft completed a multistage trip from upstate New York to Bentonville, Arkansas, and back, logging more than 2,400 nm. In addition to its two electric aircraft models, Beta is building out a network of 150 aircraft charging stations at airports across the U.S. to be used by its own vehicles as well as other electric aircraft.
Beta’s aircraft has also been flown by the U.S. Air Force and Army test pilots as part of the military’s efforts to assess potential military applications for eVTOL aircraft. And recently, an FAA pilot flew the aircraft for an evaluation. Between these flights and the cross-country missions, Beta’s CX300 prototype has already logged more than 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers), achieving a range of up to 386 miles (621 kilometers) on a single charge.
“We have been flying our eCTOL prototype airport-to-airport for a few years now to drive technological advancements in propulsion and systems, and now we’re seeing that there is a clear market for this product in addition to our eVTOL aircraft,” said Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark.
“Global operators are looking for practical solutions to help meet their sustainability commitments, and after seeing the cost and performance of this prototype, our customers are eager to integrate it into their fleet,” Clark added. “With its known certification and operational path, this aircraft represents an opportunity to get electric aviation into the market, and into the hands of our customers, as quickly as possible.”
Several new and existing Beta customers have already placed orders for the CX300. United Therapeutics, Beta’s first launch customer for the Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft, has expressed interest in using the CX300 to transport medical equipment and human organs, although the company has not disclosed exactly how many units it aims to purchase. Helicopter operator Bristow, which previously announced plans to purchase up to 55 of Beta’s Alia-250 eVTOLs, has placed an additional deposit-backed order for 50 CX300s, according to Beta. Air New Zealand has also declared its intent to order three CX300s from Beta, with an option for 20 more, as part of its Mission NextGen Aircraft program.
“As a continuation of our original partnership with Beta on their Alia 250 eVTOL, the CX300 gives us additional capability to introduce electric and sustainable aviation to our customer base around the world. We see many opportunities to supply logistics and personnel transport with CX300 once the aircraft is certified,” said Dave Stepanek, Bristow's executive vice president and chief transformation officer.