Aviation services company Blade Air Mobility has teamed up with next generation sustainable ALIA-250 aircraft developer BETA Technologies to undertake the first test flight of an electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) plane in the greater NYC area.
The trial involved BETA’s ALIA-250 eVTOL craft flying above the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, accompanied by a helicopter from Blade’s fleet of charter aircraft. For its second pass over the facility, the ALIA-250 flew the loop solo as a means of giving people on the ground an idea of just how much quieter the battery-powered craft is compared to choppers – about one-tenth the noise, according to BETA.
That reduced racket, in addition to zero-carbon emissions of eVTOL craft, is a major reason why Blade has already announced its intention to buy up to 20 of BETA’s first passenger-configured ALIA-250 planes when they obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.
Its move to adopt BETA’s ALIA-250 eVTOLs is part of Blade’s commitment to migrate away from the traditional helicopters and seaplanes it uses for private flights in the US, Europe, Canada, and India. The electric planes will be able to fly up to six people, and will operate using a network of Blade’s dedicated terminals in the US, whose charging tech BETA is also slated to provide.
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Given the technological leap next generation aircraft represent, as well as the operational transformation that embracing eVTOLs will involve for Blade, the flight of BETA’s ALIA-250 in the NYC area was considered a major milestone on its own, but also in integrating the craft into the region’s airspace.
“This is a historic moment for Blade, New York and the urban air mobility industry,” said Rob Wiesenthal, Blade CEO. “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 homebase of New York City. We are confident (eVTOLS) will be a game-changer both for our company and New York City’s transportation system once certified by the FAA.”
The trial was also a big moment for BETA, which has developed two full-scale eVTOL prototypes, and relied on test pilots from the U.S. Air Force and Army to fly the ALIA-250 in full-pattern evaluations last year. Company CEO Kyle Clark says BETA’s commercial partnership with Blade will provide its aircraft instant lift in markets around the globe when they go into operation.
“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,” Clark of the White Plaines trial. “We continue to progress our aircraft, flying real-life missions and gaining proficiency in the national airspace.”