Electric Alia begins flight testing at Eglin

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The BETA Technologies Alia aircraft lifted off for its first official test flight here Nov. 7, 2023.

The goal of this first test was to examine battery usage over certain distances with specific power configurations as well as the ground logistics of executing back-to-back flights with an electric aircraft.

The mission of the day was for Alia pilots to fly 68 nautical miles to Tyndall AFB, land and return.  Upon returning to Duke Field, North of Eglin, the aircraft then recharged via the Defense Department’s first and only aircraft charging station.  Alia took approximately an hour to fully recharge.  The aircraft received a maintenance check and then a new BETA aircrew flew a second mission. 

This process is similar to the military flight operation, hot-pitting, where an aircraft flies a mission, lands for refueling and then flies again.  Only with Alia, the fuel is electricity.

This was also the aircraft’s first solo mission here as well.  Alia flew a local-area, Eglin range familiarization flight Nov. 3, but was accompanied by a chase aircraft.

“Today’s mission was an excellent first step to exploring what this aircraft type can offer the Air Force and the military,” said 2nd Lt. Maria Reynoso, 413th Flight Test Squadron Agility Prime lead test engineer.

This first test also incorporated initial infrared or IR recordings by 782nd Test Squadron sensor operators.  The operators recorded the Alia’s take-offs and landings with special IR cameras that collected heat signature data.  These early recordings provide an IR baseline for the test team and help calibrate their sensors for a future test in December with Alia. 

“We are trying to get an idea of what kind of IR signature this aircraft is putting out,” said Josh Bohannon, 782nd TS senior electronics engineer.  “We want to compare electric aircraft IR signatures to conventional fuel aircraft signatures”.  Infrared engine signature is a metric that helps determine survivability of an aircraft, and this is our first look at an electric aircraft engine in flight.”

That data along with the battery-usage and logistics findings will be recorded for the overall AFWERX electric vertical take-off and landing program.

The Alia aircraft is flown and maintained by BETA Technologies operators.  AFWERX Agility Prime manages and sponsors all the Alia testing here all Air Force eVTOLs programs.