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U.S. Air Force Completes First Crewed Flight of ALIA eVTOL Aircraft

Last week, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) reached a significant milestone: it completed the first crewed flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. This successful demonstration takes USAF one step closer to integrating manned eVTOLs into various future missions.
USAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first time 6 photos
USAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first timeUSAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first timeUSAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first timeUSAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first timeUSAF pilots fly ALIA eVTOL for the first time
On March 9th, USAF pilots Hank "Hog" Griffiths and Maj. Jonathan Appleby flew BETA Technologies' ALIA eVTOL for the first time. The flight test took place at Beta's facility in Plattsburgh, New York, marking the culmination of a two-year collaboration between the Vermont-based aerospace company and the Agility Prime program.

Launched two years ago, the program focuses on accelerating the commercial market for eVTOL aircraft. Since 2020, Air Force engineers have collaborated with BETA's flight test team to build and optimize ALIA in order to bring electric aviation closer to reality.

Both partners moved quite fast with the vehicle's development. BETA received the Air Force airworthiness certification for an electric aircraft with personnel on board in 2021. Now, a year later, the eVTOL has already successfully taken to the skies with the first airmen on board.

ALIA is an electric aircraft with a wingspan of 50 feet (15 meters) that was initially designed as a cargo carrier capable of carrying a pilot and three pallets. However, it can also fit up to five passengers and a pilot.

The eVTOL can fly at a top speed of 173 mph (278 kph) and cover 288-mile (463-km) distances. Moreover, it takes just 50 minutes to recharge its batteries before it can soar to the skies again. BETA has also considered developing a charging infrastructure for its electric aircraft. The company has more than 60 charging stations under development from Vermont to Arkansas, and it plans to add even more.

Last week's milestone shows that the company is on the right track with the development of its product. Griffiths and Appleby conducted multiple test flights and took turns operating ALIA, becoming the first USAF pilots to operate an eVTOL.

"Today's Air Force qualitative evaluation flight is the first of many that we will be doing with BETA Technologies and our other Agility Prime vendors," Griffiths said in a statement.

"In addition to accelerating these company's path to FAA type certification by providing access to USAF engineering expertise and test infrastructure, we are also evaluating these prototypes for opportunities to utilize them for unique military missions," he added.

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