Electric aircraft maker announces CX300 conventional takeoff and landing model
By Paul Brinkmann|March 14, 2023
Beta Technologies says a prototype has been flown for thousands of kilometers
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information about Beta’s flights of a one-fifth-scale prototype of its Alia aircraft.
Beta Technologies announced today that it has been flying a prototype of an all-electric conventional takeoff and landing aircraft for at least two years with the intention of selling a production version commercially.
The company also said it has orders for the electric conventional aircraft, which it calls the CX300, from Air New Zealand, Houston-based Bristow Group and United Therapeutics, a Maryland-based company that transports organs for transplants.
Pilots have flown a prototype of the CX300 a cumulative 35,000 kilometers in multiple test flights, including a single flight of approximately 700 kilometers. Beta said pilots from FAA, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have flown the prototype for evaluation.
Beta has been known for its Alia electric vertical takeoff and landing test aircraft, which has a lift-plus-cruise configuration, meaning it has four vertical lift rotors and a single rear propeller for forward motion. So far, Alia has entered cruise mode by taking off from a runway horizontally without activating its lift rotors. The company continues to research the transition from vertical to horizontal flight by flying a one-fifth-scale unoccupied prototype of Alia.
The decision to pursue a CTOL model grew out of tests the company had been doing without lift rotors, Beta said in a news release: “Now we’re seeing that there is a clear market for this product in addition to our eVTOL aircraft. Global operators are looking for practical solutions to help meet their sustainability commitments, and after seeing the cost and performance of this prototype, our customers are eager to integrate it into their fleet.”
According to Beta, the certification path for a CTOL aircraft is well known, compared to certification for eVTOLs, which FAA is still developing with multiple startups, including Beta. So, the Vermont company hopes to certify the CX300 by 2025 and the Alia in 2026.
The CX300 “represents an opportunity to get electric aviation into the market, and into the hands of our customers, as quickly as possible,” the company said.
Commercial interest in the CX300 has helped Beta focus on other activities, such as constructing a production and manufacturing facility in South Burlington, Vermont, where it expects to begin manufacturing as early as July, the company said.
The CX300 is designed for short-haul and regional operations for cargo, medical, defense and passenger sectors. It will have zero emissions in flight and lower operational costs than gas-powered aircraft, with a “low noise profile,” Beta said.
The CX300 and the Alia designs have a lot of overlap, the company said, without providing more detail. Photos of both aircraft provided by Beta appear to show a nearly identical airframe structure.
Beta said Air New Zealand has declared an intent to order three CX300s, with an option for 20 more, while Bristow has placed a deposit-backed order for up to 50, in addition to an earlier order for five Alias, with an option for up to 55 more. Beta didn’t specify how many CX300s United Therapeutic has ordered.
A Bristow executive was quoted in the Beta release as saying that the CX300 provides “additional capability to introduce electric and sustainable aviation to our customer base around the world.”
Air New Zealand said the CX300 will help it meet a goal to fly a zero-emissions commercial demonstrator by 2026.
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