ABOUT THE COVER: The CX 300 will lack Alia’s forward booms, as shown in this image digitally altered by The Air Current of the Alia-250 prototype. The CX 300 will also have conventional landing gear, not shown.
The electric vertical take-off and landing developer Beta Technologies is pivoting to certify an electric airplane rather than an eVTOL as its first commercial aircraft, a pragmatic decision driven by the specific path of its technology development as well as its assessment of the timeline for certifying a novel vertical-lift aircraft.
Beta announced its electric conventional take-off and landing or “eCTOL” product, the CX 300, on March 14. Well in advance of the unveiling, The Air Current visited the company’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, for a deep dive into its new strategy, which will see it pursue early commercial wins as it continues to work on its Alia-250 eVTOL.
According to CEO Kyle Clark, the privately-held startup now plans to certify the electric pusher motor it developed for Alia as a standalone product, aiming to achieve a type and production certificate for the motor next year. That will serve as a stepping stone to certification of the CX 300 in 2025 and Alia-250 in 2026, a year behind its original schedule, if all goes according to plan.
Clark described this “stepwise approach” as “taking this huge problem of transforming aviation into an electric future, and chunking it down to the steps to get there.” Because Beta has never focused its business model on urban air mobility — in which VTOL capability is paramount — its pivot is commercially and technically feasible in a way that would not be the case for some of its competitors.
“This is the unlock,” Clark explained during TAC’s visit in January. “We have … all these CTOL operators saying ‘Hey, the first mission we’re doing anyway is airport to airport.’ … OK, well what’s cool about that is we can get paid to do that very, very well. And we get to solve, I would say, two-thirds of the problems of bringing [an eVTOL] to market.”
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