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Helijet inks Beta deal for first passenger eVTOL service in Canada
Helijet will integrate the Beta-designed Alia aircraft into its existing network of helicopter services in southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.
The six seat Alia is currently in advanced flight standards development towards commercial regulatory certification in 2026 and will be available for private and commercial service shortly thereafter.
Read this story in our January 2024 printed issue.

Helijet International, North America's largest and longest-standing helicopter airline, plans to become the first Canadian air carrier to provide passenger and cargo services using eVTOL aircraft having placed firm orders for the Alia eVTOL aircraft with Beta Technologies. Helijet president and CEO Danny Sitnam and Beta sales director Skye Carapetyan made the announcement with British Columbia Premier David Eby at Helijet's Victoria Harbour Heliport.

Helijet will integrate the Beta-designed aircraft into its existing network of helicopter services, providing quieter, lower cost, sustainable air transportation for travellers in southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. The electric aircraft's VTOL capability will also have tremendous potential to enhance Helijet's provision of emergency response, air ambulance and organ transfer services in the Lower Mainland region, as well as support rural and remote communities that do not have access to affordable and convenient air services.

The five passenger plus pilot configured Alia is currently in advanced flight standards development towards commercial regulatory certification in 2026 and will be available for private and commercial service shortly thereafter.

Helijet's decision to become Beta's first commercial customer in Canada is due in part to Beta's intention to certify the aircraft for IFR operations and its interest in growing its industrial base in Canada. Beta already has an R&D facility based out of the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International airport.

"We are proud to partner with Beta Technologies, a leader in the advanced air mobility space," says Sitnam. "We are committed to introducing and integrating zero-emission, vertical lift technologies and related ground/building infrastructure in the communities we serve and look forward to transforming our current heliport infrastructure to meet future urban air mobility vertiport standards."

Premier Eby noted the Province of British Columbia is committed to embracing and supporting sustainable aviation technology, as well as related infrastructure development opportunities within the province. "This provincial government recognises the potential of advanced air mobility to decarbonise the aviation sector, improve regional connectivity, improve emergency response times and introduce new manufacturing opportunities in our province," he says. "We congratulate Helijet on its exciting news and look forward to British Columbia becoming a leader in the advanced air mobility sector."

The purchase of Beta eVTOL aircraft is just the latest demonstration of Helijet's commitment to advanced air mobility. In 2019, it became a founding member of the national Canadian Advanced Air Mobility (CAAM), which has created a more than 100 member ecosystem comprised of industry, academia, capital and government members both nationally and internationally.

Key stakeholders of CAAM include the National Research Council of Canada, Air Canada Cargo, CAE, Iskwew Airlines, InDro Robotics, University of British Columbia, TransLink, BC Aviation Council, University of Victoria, BC Ministry of Transportation, TELUS, Transport Canada, Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, and Aerial Evolution Association of Canada.

"Helijet's purchase of Beta Technologies' revolutionary Alia aircraft is an aviation milestone for advanced air mobility in BC and Canada," says CAAM executive director JR Hammond. "CAAM's mission is to build an ecosystem of national collaboration in AAM and create a sustainable, equitable and profitable AAM industry in Canada. With its mature air travel market demographic and existing challenges for conventional transportation between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, southern BC provides an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the commercial viability and environmental sustainability of AAM in BC and Canada."

Beta's selection as the first provider of eVTOL aircraft to a Canadian air services operator marks another milestone for the Vermont-based company. Beta has conducted qualitative evaluation flights with the FAA, US Air Force and US Army, completed multiple 1,000 mile-plus missions across the US, utilising its own charging infrastructure, and recently opened its 188,500sq ft production and assembly facility, the first full-scale manufacturing facility for electric aircraft in the US. Earlier this autumn, the electric aerospace company also flew one of its prototype aircraft across the border into Montreal, marking the first time a battery electric aircraft has landed in the city.

"We designed Alia to be a reliable, efficient and sustainable aircraft option that could carry out a variety of missions in all types of geographies, and we're thrilled to be partnering with Helijet to bring this next-generation, net-zero technology to Canadian commuters and travellers," says founder and CEO Kyle Clark. "Between our growing engineering hub in Montreal, our first cross-border flight to the region earlier this year and the support we've received from the government and regulators across Canada, we look forward to continuing to grow our presence in the country. To be able to do that in partnership with the foremost operator in British Columbia is very exciting."

Over the past two years, Helijet has followed and shortlisted three aircraft manufacturers designing and developing eVTOL aircraft for AAM ecosystems which it will continue to consider for order. Helijet is also leading the development of Canada's first commercial vertiport at its downtown Vancouver waterfront heliport, which would connect AAM users to an intermodal transportation hub providing road, marine, air and rail access throughout the region.

To date, over $6 billion worldwide has been invested in advanced aviation technologies, with investment leadership coming from companies such as Beta, Boeing, Embraer, Airbus, Honda, Joby Aviation and Lilium. According to NEXA Advisors/UAM Geomatics, a leader in world-wide AAM market studies, over the next 15 to 20 years, Greater Vancouver has the potential to serve approximately 4.2 million passengers using eVTOL aircraft and generate $2.1 billion in new AAM business activity.

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