On November 7, 2023, the electric aircraft Alia, developed by BETA Technologies, embarked on a pivotal test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. This mission aimed to assess battery efficiency and the logistics of consecutive flights for an electric aircraft. The Alia’s task was to cover a 68-nautical-mile journey to Tyndall AFB, return to Duke Field, and recharge. Notably, it utilized the Defense Department’s sole aircraft charging station, requiring about an hour for a full recharge.
This trial mirrored military ‘hot-pitting’ operations, but with electricity substituting traditional fuel. It marked a significant milestone for Alia, also completing its first unaccompanied flight, unlike a previous local-range flight on November 3, which included a chase aircraft.
2nd Lt. Maria Reynoso, 413th Flight Test Squadron Agility Prime lead test engineer, highlighted the significance of this test for the Air Force and military applications, saying, “Today’s mission was an excellent first step to exploring what this aircraft type can offer the Air Force and the military.”
Additionally, the test encompassed initial infrared (IR) recordings by the 782nd Test Squadron. These recordings, capturing Alia’s take-offs and landings, aimed to establish an IR baseline for future tests. Senior electronics engineer Josh Bohannon of the 782nd TS explained, “We are trying to get an idea of what kind of IR signature this aircraft is putting out. We want to compare electric aircraft IR signatures to conventional fuel aircraft signatures.”
The collected data from this test, encompassing both battery usage and logistics, will contribute to the broader AFWERX electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) program. BETA Technologies has flown more than 32,000 miles before and handles the operation and maintenance of the Alia aircraft, while AFWERX Agility Prime oversees all testing of Air Force eVTOL programs. This venture into eVTOL technology reflects a burgeoning shift in military aviation, prioritizing efficiency, and sustainability.