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Beta Achieves Piloted eVTOL Transition Flight

Beta Technologies has successfully completed the first piloted transition flight with its Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft prototype, marking a significant milestone in the development of eVTOL aircraft. This achievement demonstrates the core capabilities of vertical lift and horizontal cruise in combination.

The eVTOL prototype, piloted by Beta test pilot and former U.S. Air Force test pilot Nate Moyer, took off vertically from Beta’s flight testing facilities at Plattsburgh International Airport (KPBG) in New York. The aircraft spun its four vertical lift propellers and single rear pusher propeller, accelerating until it reached cruise speed. At that point, the fixed wing provided all of the lift, allowing the vertical propellers to power down.

A video of the flight test shows Beta’s aircraft with tail number N251UT seamlessly transitioning to fully wing-borne cruise, with all four vertical lift propellers coming to a standstill as the aircraft glides through the sky.

“The transition is a technological hurdle for aviation. Being able to safely cross that is huge,” Moyer said in the video. “Obviously, it’s big for the business but it’s also big for the industry as a whole.”

Several other aircraft developers, such as Joby, Archer, and Lilium, have also successfully conducted transition flights with their eVTOL models. However, these flights were remotely piloted, whereas Beta primarily conducts its flight testing with pilots on board. Joby is the only other eVTOL developer who has started flying with onboard pilots, but these pilots have not yet completed a full transition to cruise flight. Joby first achieved this milestone with a remotely piloted prototype in 2017.

Beta's eVTOL flight testing has been primarily conducted in Plattsburgh, while the company's eCTOL (conventional takeoff and landing) prototype has been consistently flying across the eastern US for the past few years. It has also completed a successful three-month deployment with the US Air Force. Beta has accumulated over 40,000 nautical miles in flight testing over four years, across both its eVTOL and eCTOL models.

Beta originally created the eCTOL model as a prototype for the Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft, but in March 2023 the company announced it would commercialize both versions of the aircraft—a strategic decision that will allow the company to get an FAA-certified aircraft to market sooner. The eCTOL model, called CX300, is expected to receive FAA type certification in 2025, with the Alia 250 eVTOL model to follow in 2026. Beta has already signed several customers for both models of the aircraft, including UPS, United Therapeutics, Bristow, Air New Zealand, and Blade.



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