BETA and Blade conduct first piloted flight in New York area


The first piloted eVTOL flight in New York took place this week as BETA Technologies’ ALIA-250 took to the skies above Westchester County Airport.

During flight, the ALIA-250 flew alongside a conventional helicopter before pulling away for a second pass above the airport to highlight the significant noise reduction (around 1/10th compared to a conventional helicopter), according to BETA. 

A spokesperson for BETA told Revolution.Aero: “We were able to utilise the learnings from the few thousand-mile-plus missions BETA has already flown with this aircraft. Last year, we flew 2,000nm from Plattsburgh to Bentonville, charging on our own infrastructure – and repeated the feat with a flight from Plattsburgh to Louisville, KY, again charging on our own charging network.”

Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, said the flight was a historic moment for New York and the UAM industry. “This demonstration is a big milestone in our transition from helicopters to electric vertical aircraft, and we are pleased that our partners at BETA have designed the right aircraft with the requisite range, capacity, and noise profile, for use in our key markets, including our home base of New York City,” said Wiesenthal. “We are confident EVAs will be a game-changer both for our company and New York City’s transportation system once certified by the FAA.” 

In April 2021, Blade announced an agreement to facilitate the purchase of up to 20 of BETA’s first passenger-configured ALIA-250s by its network of operators. Blade will deploy these aircraft on routes between its network of US terminals. BETA is also installing charging infrastructure at certain locations. It currently has three charging stations online in New York State, with four more in development.

Kyle Clark, BETA’s founder and CEO, said: “Blade is flying passengers in key urban markets all over the world, and this flight is another step toward delivering our electric aircraft to support those operations. We continue to progress our aircraft, flying real-life missions and gaining proficiency in the national airspace. We were glad to be able to fly here from our flight test facility in Plattsburgh to work with Blade to operationalise our partnership.”

Over the past three years, BETA has processed through milestones toward certification and commercialisation with its two full-scale prototypes. The firm had test pilots from the US Air Force and Army fly the ALIA in full-pattern evaluations in March and July last year, marking the US armed forces first-ever flight of an electric vertical aircraft. BETA has also partnered with the FAA and the National Institute for Aviation Research to conduct the first-ever 50-foot drop tests of its full-scale battery packs.