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Electric aircraft carries out casualty evacuation

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The BETA Technologies ALIA team waited and watched as an HH-60W Jolly Green II dropped in fast to the clearing beside them deep within the Eglin range Jan. 11, 2023.

As soon as it touched down, Air Force special mission aviators were out the helicopter’s side door carrying a casualty on a stretcher.  The BETA team and the SMEs met in the middle of an austere runway, best known for Doolittle Raiders training in 1942, to transfer the casualty.  The BETA team began loading the stretcher as the HH-60 departed.  BETA’s all-electric aircraft, the ALIA, lifted off minutes later.

The less-than-10-minute process was part of a 413th Flight Test Squadron casualty evacuation exercise carried out with BETA’s ALIA.  This exercise marked the first time the ALIA, a convention take-off and landing aircraft, flew with and communicated directly with Air Force aircraft for a mission as well as completed a live-casualty evacuation scenario.

BETA’s ALIA team spent the last few months testing the aircraft with the 413th FLTS.  The extensive testing was a series of operational experiments guided by the rotary-wing test squadron.

“The 413th FLTS took great care to train and prepare our team for the next step and the casualty evacuation mission was an incredible opportunity to keep moving our program forward by carrying out this scenario with the Air Force,” said Chris Caputo, former fighter squadron commander and BETA test pilot.

The goal of the exercise and BETA’s deployment to Eglin for test was to assess the ALIA’s ability and performance in specific military scenarios.

“During these exercises, the goal is to augment the existing fleet with additional low-cost assets to assist in mission execution so battlefield aircraft can stay in the fight,” said Maj. Riley Livermore, 413 FLTS Futures Flight commander. 

The exercise kicked off at Moody AFB, Georgia, where the 41st Rescue Squadron aircrew picked up a simulated casualty and continued to Eglin to transfer the patient to ALIA, where the patient would be moved on to receive higher level care.  The ALIA aircrew then flew to Duke Field and delivered the casualty to a medical unit there.

The 413th FLTS had a unique connection to the HH-60W aircraft that participated in the exercise.  The aircraft used was one of the first new combat search and rescue helicopters to arrive at the unit during its developmental test and evaluation phase in 2020.  It’s now in the operational Air Force and the first to participate in this electric aircraft mission.

The Alia will complete test missions and will depart Eglin at the end of the month after a successful campaign with the 413th FLTS.