Electric aircraft manufacturer Beta Technologies has logged the first-ever flight of an all-electric aircraft into Andrews AFB, near Washington, DC.
Beta announced the flight on 18 October on networking site LinkedIn, showing photos of the company’s Alia type taxiing alongside a US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet.
“We have just completed the first flight of an electric aircraft into Joint Base Andrews, which included operations inside the heavily restricted Washington, DC Flight Restricted Zone,” Beta said on 18 October.
Flight tracking data from 18 October shows a Cessna 208 Caravan registered at the address of Beta’s Burlington, Vermont headquarters landing at Andrews AFB at 10:33h local time.
Photos and video released by Beta on social media indicate the company used such a Caravan turboprop as a chase vehicle for the Alia flight into the Washington-area base.
The flight into Andrews is part of a multi-leg journey to deliver a conventional take-off variant of Alia to the USAF at Eglin AFB in Florida. The service is exploring the potential of electric aircraft under the Agility Prime programme, and contracted with Beta in 2020 to conduct demonstration flights.
The Vermont start-up in September installed one of its fast charging stations at Eglin – the first USAF installation to receive electric aircraft support infrastructure.
“Charging station installation is a critical step to unleash test and experimentation,” says Major Anthony Zartman, USAF team lead for Agility Prime. “Two charging test sites will be set up by the end of the calendar year, marking the first multi-modal charging capabilities for the air force.”
The Eglin facility is Beta’s 13th active charging station in the USA, with the company developing an additional 55 such sites across the eastern half of the country. Each station is capable of fully charging an aircraft in under an hour, according to the company.
Beta says the upcoming demonstration flights at Eglin will be used to “assess the viable mission sets and applicability of Beta’s electric aircraft and chargers”.
The sortie from Andrews marks Alia’s second flight to a military installation. The first came in 2022, when Beta delivered the experimental design to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio – home of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
In addition to the conventional take-off variant, Beta is also developing the crewed, all-electric Alia in a vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) version. The USAF awarded Alia military airworthiness approval in 2021 under the Agility Prime programme.
The designation has allowed Beta to begin crewed flights of its experimental aircraft, including the electric aerospace industry’s only qualitative evaluation sorties made with uniformed test pilots from the US Army and USAF.
In addition to military usage, Beta is also pursuing type certification for Alia with US civil regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration. The company says it anticipates a 2025 entry into service for the conventional take-off Alia variant, with approval for the eVTOL Alia coming in 2026.
Earlier in October, Beta unveiled plans for a full-scale aircraft production facility in the company’s home town that will eventually be capable of manufacturing and assembling 300 Alias annually.
The company currently has order commitments for up to 350 Alias from customers including US freight delivery service UPS, Dublin-headquartered helicopter lessor LCI, New York area urban air mobility provider Blade and Texas-based vertical lift services provider Bristow Group.