The journey took place over several flights, comprising 876 miles (1,410 kilometers) from Plattsburgh, New York, to UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky. The aircraft flew across four states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky, where it was met by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The journey took five days, with a hold for snow in New York, and the single-piloted aircraft rotated between two pilots — Nick Warren and Lochie Ferrier.
The flight took place at the request of Beta customer UPS to reposition the aircraft at its Worldport facility. This followed the company’s two-part cross-country flight in the summer, where the Alia flew 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) from Plattsburgh, New York, to Bentonville, Arizona.
Beta has two prototypes that flight test regularly, one configured to VTOL and one to CTOL. The aircraft in this mission was the CTOL variant, though the company believes that data from both can be brought together for the VTOL mission. The company first successfully hovered the VTOL variant earlier in 2022 and said it is making strong progress with this aircraft.
Its latest flight notched several gains since its inaugural summer flight, including the completion of three flights daily, flying into and out of busier airspace, conducting the flights with fewer crew members, and operating in colder weather conditions.
However, testing the aircraft in winter weather was not the primary aim of the flight, Ferrier told Vertical. It was simply a side effect of the flight’s scheduled departure dates.
Rather, the aim was “to get these airplanes into real airspace and in real airports,” he said. “That has always been really valuable for us in terms of learning and improving our technology for our end customers. We can only learn so much flying in our local area…”