The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Beta’s Electric Airplane Lands at Air Force Base in Florida

Beta Technologies’ Alia prototype has completed a 2,000-mile journey from Vermont to Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, where the U.S. Air Force’s 413th Squadron will use the electric fixed-wing airplane for hands-on experimentation and training. The delivery comes shortly after Beta’s installation of an electric aircraft charging station at the base. 

The Alia aircraft landed at Duke Field on Eglin Air Force Base at 12:18 p.m. local time on Thursday, October 26, beginning a contracted deployment that is expected to last several months. During that time, Beta’s core flight test team will work with the USAF to experiment with possible use cases for the six-seat electric air taxi in defense operations, such as cargo resupply missions and personnel transport. Beta will also train USAF pilots and technicians on how to operate and maintain the aircraft. 

During its 16-day journey down to Eglin, Beta’s Alia aircraft flew over 12 U.S. states, making about 20 stops along the way to recharge its batteries using several of its own multimodal charging stations. In addition to developing its electric aircraft, Beta is building a network of charging stations across the country. The company has chargers online at 13 locations across the eastern U.S., and work is underway to install them at another 55 locations along the East and Gulf Coasts. 

The electric fixed-wing airplane, which Beta is developing alongside its Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft, is an experimental model that was permitted to fly cross-country under an FAA market survey certificate. Beta originally built the Alia prototype as a precursor to its eVTOL model before it decided to certify both the conventional and eVTOL versions of its aircraft. The Alia prototype has made several cross-country flights over the past couple of years, including a recent trip to Canada. Several Beta pilots—including the company’s founder and CEO, Kyle Clark—took turns piloting the prototype on the way down to Eglin. 

The trek to Florida began on October 10, when the Alia prototype departed from Burlington International Airport (KBTV) in Vermont, where the company has its headquarters, and flew to Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport (KGFL) in Glens Falls, New York. Later that day, it flew to Rome, New York. Over the next couple of weeks, the aircraft made stops in Syracuse, New York; Pittsfield and Marshfield, Massachusetts; Bridgeport, Connecticut; White Plains, New York; Reading, Pennsylvania; Easton and Joint Base Andrews in Maryland; Stafford, Charlottesville, and Danville, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina; Camden, South Carolina; Augusta, and Macon, Georgia; and Dothan, Alabama. 

The Alia prototype flies over Washington, D.C.
The Alia prototype flew over Washington, D.C. on its way to Joint Base Andrews, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Photo: Beta Technologies)

Beta notched several milestones during the trip. The Alia prototype became the first all-electric aircraft to fly in Class B airspace around Boston and New York City, and it was the first to fly in the restricted flight zone over Washington, D.C., when it visited Joint Base Andrews. The company also commissioned the first electric aircraft charger in Massachusetts during its stop in Marshfield, and it broke ground on North Carolina’s first electric aircraft charger at Raleigh Executive Jetport. 

Beta has been working with the USAF since 2020 through its Afwerx Agility Prime program, which aims to foster public-private collaboration on electric aviation technologies for both the commercial and defense markets. Through that program, Beta became the first eVTOL developer to receive military airworthiness approval, and Air Force pilots have already flown Beta's aircraft.

“For the past several years, Afwerx has provided critical input and support to the Beta programs,” Clark said in a statement. “Deploying Alia for experimentation and training at Duke Field is the natural next step in our partnership. We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Air Force over the next few months as we...assess how the economic, sustainability, and energy independence benefits of electric aviation can serve our military.

“In addition to the milestone of delivering an asset to our partners, this mission has been an invaluable opportunity to fly our electric aircraft down the East Coast into the communities this technology, and our operators, will ultimately serve,” Clark added.

Beta intends to offer its zero-emissions aircraft for both commercial air taxi and cargo logistics applications. The company plans to have its Alia 250 eVTOL model and the conventional takeoff and landing CX300 version certified and in service by 2026 and 2025, respectively. It has provisional sales commitments from multiple prospective operators, including helicopter group Bristow and express freight distributor UPS.

While the company has said it expects the eVTOL aircraft to have a range of about 250 miles on a single charge, the fixed-wing prototype has already flown as far as 386 miles (336 nm), which according to Beta is the longest flight by any electric aircraft to date.