Beta Visits Montréal
By Kenneth I. Swartz
Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023
On Sept. 27, Beta Technologies made the first international flight of its all-electric Alia electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft prototype, N250UT, from Plattsburgh International Airport (PBG) in New York to Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) in Quebec. The 31-minute flight covered 65 miles (105 km).
Alia was flown by the company’s test pilot Chris Caputo, with Beta flight test engineer Emma Davis flying in the right seat, the company said. “The flight involved traversing the busy airspace of YUL airport, a Class B airport, which typically sees up to an average of 53,000 passengers per day.”
It was greeted by the Beta team there, as well as by Juan Carlos Salazar, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); Melanie Lussier, President of Aéro Montréal; Yves Beauchamp, President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal (ADM); and Marie-Claude Francoeur, the Quebec Delegate for New England; as well as Beta’s CEO and founder, Kyle Clark and representatives from companies such as CAE and United Therapeutics, one of the earliest investors in Beta.
In its news post, Beta said, “ALIA became the first all-electric aircraft to land in Montréal.” Juan Carlos Salazar, ICAO Secretary General, however, went further, stating in the Beta press release (emphasis added), “This aircraft’s safe arrival here yesterday represents the very first international flight of a 100% electrically powered aircraft, configured to carry passengers or cargo, and provides a concrete and very timely example of the incredible innovation taking place all across our sector to help address the CO2 emissions impacts of international air mobility.” He continued, “ICAO is working extremely hard to encourage this transformation in aviation, and to support the national regulators who work closely with innovators like BETA to test and certify these amazing new aircraft types.”
In September 2021, CAE and Beta Technologies announced a strategic partnership for pilot and maintenance training programs for Alia. United Therapeutics’ Canadian subsidiary Unither Bioelectronics, Inc. has led the company’s efforts to develop the environmentally friendly aircraft for the delivery of manufactured organs (see “Martine Rothblatt: Serial Entrepreneur,” Vertiflite, July/Aug 2022).
Beta employs more than 70 engineers primarily working on structural design at its YUL facility, which includes a hangar on Ryan Avenue where most of the airport’s fixed-base operators (FBOs) are located. Beta’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, and flight test center in nearby Plattsburgh, New York, are just south of the Canada–US border.
After 24 hours in Montréal, Quebec, Alia returned to the US, flying back to the Beta headquarters in Vermont. Quebec is home to the world’s third-largest aerospace cluster. A growing number of advanced air mobility (AAM) companies are also establishing a footprint in the province to recruit technical talent and attract new private and government investment from the province of Quebec and the Canadian federal government.
The Montréal area is headquarters for leading aerospace companies like Bombardier, CAE and Pratt & Whitney Canada, as well as home for Bell’s commercial helicopter production, Bombardier’s Challenger 350 and Challenger 650 production and the main Airbus A220 (formerly C Series) final assembly site, plus a wide range of aerospace industry suppliers.
For these reasons, VFS will hold its 80th Annual Forum & Technology Display in Montréal, May 7–9, 2024 (www.vtol.org/forum).