In November 2019, Beta Technologies CEO Kyle Clark shared an exclusive preview of the company’s electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, Alia, at TexasUP, an invite-only gathering focused on emerging aviation technologies at Ross Perot, Jr.’s Circle T Ranch near Fort Worth, Texas. Alia wasn’t publicly unveiled until June the following year, but the investors, entrepreneurs and handful of journalists at TexasUP, organized by the team who later founded the venture capital firm UP.Partners, got early insight into Beta’s plans and design philosophy.
Last week, Clark was back on stage at the Circle T at the rebrandedUP.Summit to discuss the grand opening of Beta’s 188,500-square-foot production facility in Burlington, Vermont, which will ultimately be capable of producing up to 300 aircraft per year. It was a striking example of the tangible progress the eVTOL industry has made since 2019. Likewise, the presence at the summit of many current and former political leaders — ranging from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders to former President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — attested to the growing importance of advanced air mobility in government policy.
Yet, if the four-year, pandemic-induced gap between events at the Circle T provided an opportunity to reflect on how far this nascent industry has come, it also underscored how difficult and protracted the work of building a novel aircraft really is.
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