Beta Technologies and charter aviation company Blade have flown a piloted eVTOL aircraft for the first time in the New York City region.
Beta’s Alia-250 performed the test flight from the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York on February 16 after being flown from BETA’s testing facility in Plattsburgh. During the 13 minute flight the Alia-250 flew alongside a Airbus H125 chaser helicopter before pulling away for a second pass above the airport to demonstrate the difference in noise levels.
The Alia-250 is a five passenger eVTOL lift + cruise eVTOL that uses a distributed electric propulsion system with horizontal rotors and a single propeller at the rear with a 50ft (15m) wingspan. The aircraft has a range of 290 miles (460km) and a top speed of 170mph (270 km/h).
Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, which currently operates a helicopter charter business in New York and several other cities around the world said. “This demonstration is a big milestone in our transition to electric vertical aircraft, and we are pleased that our partners at Beta have designed the right aircraft for use in our home base of New York City.”
Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of Beta Technologies said, “We continue to progress our aircraft, flying missions and gaining proficiency in the airspace. We were glad to be able to fly here from our flight test facility to work with Blade to operationalize our partnership.”
According to Beta, the Alia-250’s noise profile is 90% less than conventional helicopters, making it suitable for use in urban areas.
Blade has agreed to buy up to 20 Alia-250s for operation in the USA. BETA will also provide and install charging infrastructure at certain key locations as part of the deal.
Beta has been flight testing since 2018 and has two full-scale prototype aircraft it is using to progress towards certification and commercialization.
Beta also had test pilots from the US Air Force (USAF) and US Army fly the Alia-250 in March 2022 and July 2022 respectively. These were the first flights of an eVTOL by the USAF and US Army and the industry’s first manned qualitative evaluations.
BETA has also partnered with the FAA and the National Institute for Aviation Research in the first 50ft drop tests of its full-size battery packs.