Beta Expands As U.S. Army Evaluates Beta ALIA-250c eVTOL

A U.S. Army pilot evaluated the Beta Technologies' Alia-250c.
Credit: U.S. Army

Advanced air mobility (AAM) developer Beta Technologies has secured a 75-year lease at Burlington International Airport (BTV) in Vermont to build a 355,000-ft.² electric aircraft production facility.

The expansion comes as the U.S. Army completed an initial conventional flight of Beta Technologies’ Alia-250c eVTOL aircraft. A pilot from the service assessed the electric aircraft’s performance and handling qualities during the 1.6 hr. fixed-wing evaluation flight, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center says. The Army is partnering with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX innovation unit and eVTOL developer Beta to share flight test data and discuss possible missions for electric aircraft. 

The Alia prototype flown by the Army is not fitted with lift rotors and so uses a pusher propeller for fixed-wing flying. Nonetheless, the service said on Twitter that it planned vertical takeoff and landing testing “next.” The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when the vertical takeoff and landing flight might take place.

AFWERX’s Agility Prime program is funding additional development and testing of eVTOL aircraft via partnerships with a wide range of electric aircraft companies. In March, two U.S. Air Force pilots flew the Alia for the first time. The Air Force told Aviation Week in May that it was working to bring Agility Prime eVTOL aircraft to upcoming U.S. Army exercises, including the service’s Project Convergence experiment this fall. Project Convergence is an annual series of Army exercises at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona focused on experimenting with new technologies.

In terms of planned expansion, Beta will build a production and assembly facility, a 320-vehicle parking lot and a 15,000-ft.² child care center in two phases, beginning with construction of half of the production facility. The venture capital-backed company plans to start operating the new facility in 2023 and spend more than $200 million on capital investments and salaries through 2024, background information says.

Beta’s Alia-250, a six-seat eVTOL aircraft, is aimed for certification by late 2024. The company has been a tenant at BTV since 2019 and employs 300 people at that location. It expects to hire another 300 employees as it brings the production facility online.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced city council approval of the lease agreement between the city-owned airport and Beta on July 18. Under the lease, the rent paid by Beta will be a fair market rate, consistent with the rent paid by other tenants of BTV, the mayor’s office said.

“Beta’s vision of electric aviation fully aligns with Burlington’s vision of a fully-electrified, net-zero city that offers vast opportunities to all who want to make this special place their home,” Weinberger said. “This lease ensures that, for many years to come, Beta can continue its remarkable growth and innovation right here at BTV.”

Beta has booked orders for the Alia from multiple interested operators. U.S. biotechnology company United Therapeutics plans to use the 250 nm-range eVTOL aircraft for organ delivery flights. Cargo carrier UPS has placed a firm order for 10 Alias, with an option for up to 140 more, and has reserved the right to purchase Beta’s charging stations for an end-to-end system. Blade Urban Air Mobility has ordered five aircraft with an option for up to 20 for airport transfer and commuter flights.

“We are grateful to Mayor Weinberger, the City Council, Airport Director Nic Longo and the local community for the ongoing support of Beta’s growth in Vermont,” Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark said. “With this agreement, Beta will launch its production here in Vermont with a new sustainable and responsible green campus here at the airport.”

  Beta Technologies has been flying the Alia around the U.S. on a tour over the past several months. Among other stops, the aircraft landed at the UP.Summit urban air mobility (UAM) convention in Bentonville, Arkansas, and flew between Amazon Air hubs at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Wilmington Air Park in Ohio.
 

Garrett Reim

Based in Los Angeles, Garrett covers the space sector and advanced technologies that are shaping the future of aerospace and defense, including space startups, advanced air mobility and artificial intelligence.

Bill Carey

Based in Washington, DC, Bill covers avionics, air traffic management and aviation safety for Aviation Week. A former daily newspaper reporter, he has covered the commercial, business and military aviation segments as well as unmanned aircraft systems. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2017, he worked for Aviation International News and Avionics and Rotor & Wing magazines.