Dan D'Ambrosio Burlington Free Press
Zero-emissions electric aircraft to be built in new facility at Burlington airport
May 19, 2021
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  • BETA Technologies, the Burlington-based company that has created an electric aircraft capable of carrying cargo and people, is planning a production facility for Burlington International Airport expected to create 500 jobs.

    Kyle Clark, founder and chief executive officer of BETA, said in a conference call on Tuesday the facility will produce between 250 and 400 aircraft per year, and when fully operational could employ as many as 800 people. Clark hopes to break ground on the facility located off of Valley Road as soon as September.

    “We have just over 200 (employees) right now doing certification engineering,” Clark said.

    BETA, founded in 2017, has lately exploded onto the scene with its zero-emissions ALIA aircraft, attracting the attention of Amazon, UPS and the U.S. Air Force. The company closed a private round of funding this month that raised $368 million, and was joined by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund

    “We support BETA Technologies’ mission to reshape air transportation through zero-emission aviation and are proud to invest in them through Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund,” Kara Hurst, vice president and head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon, said in a statement.

    Clark said Tuesday that BETA’s funding adds up to “something just under a billion dollars,” taking into account investments and customer commitments. UPS has ordered 10 of the ALIA aircraft, which sell for $4 million each, and has reserved the right to buy another 150 aircraft.

    Blade, which shuttles passengers from Manhattan to the airport and the Hamptons — currently in helicopters — has ordered five ALIAs and reserved up to 20 aircraft. BETA spokesman Jake Goldman said Tuesday noise is an issue for Blade and one of the appealing aspects of the six-passenger ALIA is how quiet it is. BETA says its aircraft are 10 times quieter than helicopters when flying.

    Clark said Tuesday BETA also has a contract with the U.S. Air Force, which has conducted extensive studies on the ALIA and recently awarded it air worthiness, a significant step toward adding the aircraft to its fleet

    United Therapeutics, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, was BETA’s first customer and will use the ALIA to transport its synthetic organs for human transplant. ALIA flies 250 nautical miles and can carry six people or up to 1,500 pounds of cargo.

    Clark’s wife, Katie, has joined him in the company and is responsible for the “culture and inspiration” within the business, Kyle Clark said.

    “Kyle and I grew up here being told there wouldn’t be jobs here for us,” Katie Clark said during Tuesday’s conference call. “We’re trying to change that mindset and create opportunities for other Vermonters.”