Located at Louisville International Airport in Kentucky, UPS Worldport — the shipping company’s flagship hub — sees thousands of aircraft movements per month. On June 12, it recorded a wholly unique one: the arrival of Beta Technologies’ all-electric aircraft, Alia.
The electric vertical take-off and landing prototype (operating in airplane mode, with its lifting propellers removed) swung through Louisville as part of a month-long, nearly 3,000-mile tour that took it from its testing grounds in Plattsburgh, New York to the UP Summit in Bentonville, Arkansas and back again. The cross-country flight was a groundbreaking demonstration of how a battery-electric aircraft can operate in the national airspace system, using charging solutions developed by Vermont-based Beta in house.
For UPS, which hasordered 10 Alia aircraft with an option to purchase up to 150, the visit was a symbolic milestone that followed two years of collaboration with Beta behind the scenes. It was also evidence that Alia, while still facing technical and regulatory challenges, is nevertheless on track to be capable of performing meaningful missions for UPS within a few years.
“Seeing is believing, and to see some of these operators like Beta demonstrating their aircraft and capabilities out in the real-world environment really shows where we’re at,” said Jeff Luckett, who heads strategy and acquisitions at UPS Flight Forward. In an interview with The Air Current, Luckett shared details of UPS’s strategy for deploying eVTOL aircraft, as well as his broader perspective on this emerging industry.
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