BETA Technologies opens electric aircraft production facility

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Dignitaries on Monday included Governor Scott, Senator Sanders, Senator Welch, Congresswoman Balint and former Senator Leahy, for whom the airport is now named. Photos courtesy BETA.

Vermont Business Magazine BETA Technologies, an electric aerospace company based in South Burlington, opened the doors on Monday to a large-scale production facility at the Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport (BTV) in Vermont, where it will manufacture and assemble its all-electric aircraft. Production has begun with the installation of assembly tooling and the initiation of various system production lines, marking a significant milestone along BETA’s path to delivering its all-electric aircraft, the ALIA CTOL and the ALIA VTOL, to military and commercial customers.

BETA’s facility is designed to be net-zero, equipped with state-of-the-art sustainability technology.

BETA’s balanced approach to manufacturing includes vertically integrating the design and manufacture of new and enabling technologies such as their superefficient propulsion system, battery systems, and flight controls; and contracting top aerospace suppliers, including Albany Engineered Composites, Advanced Integration Technology, Garmin, Solvay, Sensata, and Volz Servos, among others. 

The 188,500-square-foot production facility will ultimately be capable of producing up to 300 aircraft per year and it is expected to create hundreds of jobs. BETA is planning for a steady ramp up to maximum production rates and delivery to its diverse base of customers across cargo, medical, defense, and passenger industries. 

The facility is located on a 40-acre site, with potential to support a significant expansion, doubling in size via a Phase II build-out.

“The team here at BETA is excited to enter the next phase of our growing electric aerospace business. We have worked through research, engineering, prototyping, test flying, initial phases of certification and now we are entering our next important step of starting production, in an inspiring facility,” said Kyle Clark, CEO and Founder of BETA. “The internal BETA team along with many awesome local contractors, tradespeople and civil servants have challenged each other to create a beautiful, sustainable and functional building for producing the future of aviation. We are incredibly thankful to this community.”

Kyle Clark, CEO and Founder of BETA.

BETA opens the doors to its scaled production facility following a methodical series of steps to ensure production readiness. The company has been refining pilot production line efficiency and flow for its internally developed technologies and systems, including battery packs, electric motors, and inverters.

The Company has also developed and is exercising its quality management systems and manufacturing process procedures and standards — and is working closely with the FAA to certify them.

To date, BETA has flown more than 500 full-scale, piloted flights on BETA-built battery systems and conducted more than 10,000 hours of testing on electric motors produced on its pilot production lines. In addition, BETA has long been partnering with many of its primary suppliers, meaning the bulk of its 26,000 test flight miles have been conducted with the same supplier parts and systems designated for the production aircraft.

BETA has taken a strategic approach to its supply chain, partnering with aerospace leaders on various systems and components for its production aircraft, while internally designing and manufacturing the proprietary, high-performance electric motors, battery systems, and flight control hardware and software systems that power it. This approach allows BETA to reduce certification friction and de-risk production, while implementing already-certified systems designed by established, innovative aerospace companies and maintaining IP on its own highly-efficient powertrain.

Industrializing A Clean Aviation Future, Sustainably 

BETA’s production facility is a first-of-its-kind building designed very intentionally to be sustainable — an embodiment of BETA’s mission to decarbonize the aviation sector and help turn the corner on climate change. Three pillars inform the construction design strategy: sustainability, efficiency, and people-first.

The new facility is equipped with 260 geothermal wells to provide energy for temperature control within the building, and nearly three acres of roof-mounted solar panels — contributing to a net-zero campus.

The structural sub-base supports concrete foundations and is made by a glass aggregate of 99% recycled glass and 1% binder, replacing nearly 100,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam insulation.

The assembly line floor is optimized to move aircraft along the line in a safe, climate-controlled, and logical manner — and it’s designed with the future in mind. Unique to the manufacturing industry, the facility’s floor to ceiling windows and a quarter acre skylight enable natural light throughout the facility, and tunable lighting systems offer a more natural working environment at all times of day. Common areas and large windows are strategically placed throughout the building, visually connecting the team to accelerate collaboration and teamwork.

A Balanced Approach to Manufacturing: Vertical and Horizontal Integration 

BETA’s aircraft are powered by electric propulsion, the heart of which is BETA’s proprietary electric motor, inverter, battery systems, and flight controls. The Company has designed and will produce these elements internally to optimize for safety/weight performance, and reliability.

The company’s motors feature a redundant design powered by redundant three-phase inverters, creating a simple, safe, and efficient powertrain. BETA has achieved significant milestones on early versions of its powertrain, flying two multi-leg, thousand-mile-plus missions — all while demonstrating a 97.5% efficiency during cruise flight. The motors receive power from up to five modular battery packs — each of which holds 45 to 60 kWh. BETA’s battery systems are proprietary, incorporating pack- and cell-level cooling as well as additional thermal and safety redundancies.

The opening on Monday featured a flyover.

BETA has also been working closely with its top-tier aerospace suppliers. The company has partnered with industry-leading material suppliers, tooling providers, and composite parts providers to produce distinctive composite structures — and is layering in its own extensive human factors and system engineering experience, to develop an industry-leading aircraft design.

● BETA’s design and manufacturing engineering teams have partnered with Albany Engineered Composites (AEC), a leading manufacturer of highly engineered composite components, to deliver BETA’s bespoke primary composite parts, including wing skins, spars, and ribs, fuselage and empennage components.

● The aerospace automation and tooling industry’s leading designer, manufacturer, and integrator of automated conveyance, positioning, and joining systems, Advanced Integration Technology (AIT), is serving as BETA’s industrialization partner. AIT is utilizing its process development and engineering core competencies along with vertically integrated manufacturing capabilities to provide automated equipment and precision tooling for primary structure assembly at BETA’s production facility. AIT is also developing and supplying complete tooling solutions to BETA’s composite part suppliers.

● Garmin, a world leader of aviation technologies and solutions, will supply the avionics suite for BETA’s integrated flight deck. In the last year, the companies have collaborated to tailor Garmin’s commercial, off-the-shelf products to BETA’s IFR capable electric aircraft. The Garmin system provides pilots with acute information about batteries, motors, and digital control systems for safe commercial operations.

● ALIA’s sensor-based pilot inceptor and throttles come from Sensata Technologies, a leading industrial technology company that specializes in sensor-rich solutions and high voltage electrical protection. BETA has layered extensive human factors engineering, developing mechanical designs that leverage Sensata’s extensive background in flight controls, sensing, and actuation.

● BETA has also teamed up with Volz Servos - a leading manufacturer and supplier of electromechanical rotary actuators - to provide reliable flight control surface actuation.

● Solvay, a world leader in advanced polymers and composite materials, is BETA’s primary composite material supplier. BETA has worked with Solvay to complete extensive qualification testing on its composite materials, which support the aircraft structures. Composites represent up to 70% of our aircraft structures and are critical to enabling lightweighting and meeting use case targets.

“We’re honored to partner with a leader and true innovator in the emerging and exciting electric aerospace arena,” said Greg Harwell, President of Albany Engineered Composite (AEC). “From our very first discussions, it’s clear we share the same passion for aviation, innovation, collaboration, and delivering mission success.”

“This unique partnership connects one of the world’s most respected leaders in aerospace manufacturing, automation, and tooling with the leading innovator in electric aircraft,” said Ed Chalupa, Chairman and CEO of AIT. “We believe that this partnership will be a game-changer for the aerospace industry and a great opportunity to contribute to BETA’s bright future, by providing AIT’s industry-leading factory solutions.”

“BETA has made great technical progress and has already achieved significant milestones, including flying both aircraft and receiving military flight release for the ALIA CTOL, in their effort towards bringing a more sustainable aviation solution to the market,” said Phil Straub, Garmin’s Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Aviation. “It’s an honor to have our integrated flight deck chosen for the revolutionary ALIA VTOL and ALIA CTOL aircraft and we are thrilled to be part of BETA’s mission to grow the electric aviation market.”

“We’re excited to be a part of the industry’s transformation as we partner with innovative companies like BETA to develop solutions for new electric aircraft that build on our decades of expertise in aerospace,” says Stuart Parker, Aerospace General Manager at Sensata Technologies.

“With the ALIA CTOL and ALIA VTOL, BETA continues its unprecedented history in uncrewed aviation,” said Phillipp Volz, CEO of Volz Servos. “We are honored by BETA’s trust and are immensely proud to be able to equip these aircrafts with our actuators - especially considering the challenges that eVTOLs still have to overcome today, first and foremost compliance with important safety standards. Being able to deliver unique, certifiable actuators that comply with both European and U.S. aviation regulations is crucial for gaining a foothold in a market whose great potential is increasingly being recognized.

“Solvay is proud to be the advanced material supplier of choice for BETA Technologies as they bring the ALIA CTOL, and ALIA VTOL to market,” said Marc Doyle, Executive Vice President, Aerospace and Defense, Solvay Materials Segment. “These vehicles represent a new dawn in safe and efficient electric aviation. Solvay's unrivaled portfolio of composite, adhesive and specialty polymer solutions will help ensure the development of lightweight, and certifiable aircrafts. With decades of experience in the aerospace and automotive markets, our technical team is supporting Beta and its partners both remotely and onsite across materials qualification, certification, and industrialization. We are excited to be involved in this pioneering program.”

The Company has partnered with numerous other industry-leading aerospace suppliers for other key systems and materials, from lithium-ion battery cells to propellers and exterior lighting.

BETA undertook an extensive process over the last four years to identify partners willing to join its mission to deliver its electric aviation system to customers. Many of the engaged suppliers have been partners of BETA’s, working with the Company to co-engineer bespoke systems for the Company’s aircraft. In fact, various partners have supplied systems that are currently installed on the Company’s two test articles and simulators, logging real, practical hours of in-field use and telemetry data.

Continued Growth in the Vermont 

Monday’s opening signifies another phase of growth for BETA within the state of Vermont. With this opening, BETA’s production facility joins its other Vermont sites, including R&D headquarters and a Maintenance & Training hangar in South Burlington, pilot manufacturing facilities in Williston, and an Advanced Battery Research Center in St. Albans.

The company also has locations in Plattsburgh, New York, Washington, D.C., Montreal, Canada, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Springfield, Ohio.

“BETA’s forward-thinking approach to sustainable aviation has led to new jobs, new community partnerships, and investment in the Burlington area and all of Vermont. It’s also encouraging to see the total transformation of a 40-acre brownfield — from an unused stretch of land in need of redevelopment and cleanup, to a green-energy, net-zero, hub of economic and electric aviation activity,” said Senator Welch.

“I’m excited to celebrate the official opening of the production facility, and look forward to seeing the new heights BETA will reach because of this new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.

“The opening of the production facility is incredibly good news for Vermont and another huge step forward for BETA. I’m thrilled for Kyle and the whole team at BETA to see their hard work pay off, and I’m excited to continue to watch them thrive, innovate and grow in the Green Mountain State."

The new, nearly 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at BTV.

Source: SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT (October 2, 2023) — BETA Technologies