JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — An aviation innovation made a stop in Chautauqua County on Wednesday to recharge.
Beta Technologies’ first of its kind electric aircraft touched down at the Jamestown airport.
“This is the first time an electric aircraft to my knowledge has been to Jamestown, we established a charging network that goes from our home base in Vermont all the way down to Arkansas. And we recently won a grant from Health and Human Services to establish a network that goes from Arkansas all the way over to Florida and then up the east coast with one of our customers,” says Kyle Clark, Founder and CEO of Beta Technologies.
Flying in from Elmira, NY, Beta Technologies prototype charged overnight ahead of a test flight to Saranac Lake. This futuristic form of transportation relies on newly just installed infrastructure.
“We installed the charger, and I’m not sure what the funding source was. We’ve had a number of chargers that have gone in on our dime, and a number of chargers that have gone in under different government incentives to establish a network throughout the entire country of electric chargers for aircraft,” explains Clark.
This cost effective and eco friendly innovation is exciting news for those running the county’s airfield.
“This is a piece of our future. The Jamestown airport has had a charging station here for a little over a year now, and this is the first time we’ve gotten an opportunity to use it,” says Chautauqua County Manager of Airports Shannon Barnhart.
These electric aircrafts will be used for cargo shipping, medical supplies, and eventually passenger flights. Two types of electric aircrafts will be utilized, including fixed-wing aircrafts that are intended to fly airport to airport, and aircrafts with lifters that can takeoff and land vertically without a landing strip, making it ideal for landing at hospitals.
“We built the largest electric aircraft to fly in the world in 2017, a 4000 pound aircraft. But that couldn’t really do a commercial mission like fly for UPS or United Therapeutics or the government, so we designed this aircraft which has amazing range,” explains Clark.
The aircraft is low cost and carbon neutral. During the most recent test, the craft had a range of 255 miles. As battery storage improves, so will the range. Currently, it takes around 30 minutes to fully charge for a cargo run.
“In a normal airplane, you got a big engine in front of you. This, I’ve got this beautiful view, it’s amazing. I actually think as much as I love the fact that it only costs us ten dollars to fly out here on electricity, the fact that when the passengers get in it, there’s not gonna be that anxiety and noise and the visceral intensity of flying. It’s quiet, it’s smooth,” says Clark.
For the same distance flight, the traditional fuel model spent $600 dollars to refuel versus $11 dollars for the electric flight.
“If there’s an artisan here selling something on Etsy, they can ship something later in the evening and be competitive with people in metro areas. So our goal is to democratize access to aircraft by lowering the cost, keeping them super sustainable, and that will move from cargo and medical into passenger,” explains Clark.
At their net zero building in Vermont, the company plans to produce 300 of these aircrafts a year.
Though the upfront cost of these crafts is steeper than their traditional counterparts, $4.5 versus $3.5 million, those costs will quickly pay for themselves in fuel.
Just next year, the military and government will be able to apply for an electric aircraft, and by 2025, it will be open to civil applications.