BETA flies piloted transition test in VTOL prototype



BETA Technologies has successfully a flown piloted transition test in the VTOL version of its Alia aircraft. 

The tests were completed earlier this month at BETA’s base in Plattsburgh, New York. Having earlier successfully completed single phases, the test flight marked the first time BETA had a flown a full transition with a pilot on board. 

At the controls was Nate Moyer, BETA test pilot and former US Air Force experimental test pilot. “The transition is massive technological hurdle for aviation, being able to safely cross that is huge. It is big for the business, but it is also big for the industry as a whole,” he said.

The data collected from this test and all the tests leading up to the full transition will feed into further testing as BETA expands the flight envelope of its VTOL aircraft (aka A250). This will include assessment of the handling characteristics, testing the aircraft to the limits of its capability and continued safety verification of operational scenarios.

The transition, where a VTOL aircraft moves from vertical to horizontal flight and back again for landing, is a critical part of the flight pattern and a key milestone for any VTOL developer to hit. It represents one fairly large step of many towards certification. It is described by BETA’s founder and CEO Kyle Clark as the point at which a VTOL moves from flying like a helicopter to flying like an airplane.

“We’ve been testing over the last several years all of the different data points to bring it [Alia] through transition,” said Clark. “Everything is aligned; the propulsion, the energy storage, the physics, the structure. We’ve got a hell of a team there to make sure every thing that is in our control, we control it and do it really well. 

“It is no harder than any other step, but it is the step that everybody knows.”

BETA has now flown ALIA prototypes for more than four years, clocking more than 40,000 nautical miles in total across both VTOL and CTOL version of its aircraft. Its runway independent VTOL will first be used by the military, then cargo carriers, followed by passenger carrying operators. 

Meanwhile, last week BETA’s Charge Cube was certified by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL), the OEM is the only electric aircraft developer with UL-certified infrastructure. This latest charger will join BETA’s growing network across the US and Canada. To date, the firm has certified chargers online at more than 20 airports across America, with more than 50 airports, heliports and vertiports in development.