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Aircraft Charges Up During Stop At Jamestown Airport

Individuals with Beta Technologies charge up their plane Wednesday night so it could be flown again to Saranac Lake, as part of test flights for the aircraft. P-J photos by Gregory Bacon

The future of aviation has touched down in Chautauqua County.

On Wednesday night, Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of Beta Technologies, flew his electric 7,000 pound fixed-wing aircraft into the Jamestown airport so it could be charged and fly out in the morning.

Jamestown is one of the few airports in the country that has an electric charging station, which was installed last year by Beta Technologies. Clark’s plane was the first aircraft to use the station.

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“We established a charging network to go from our homebase in Vermont all the way down to Arkansas,” Clark explained. They recently were awarded a federal grant to have additional charging stations in Florida and up the East Coast. “We’re going to make a big triangle with Jamestown being a part of that triangle.”

The plane left Wednesday morning from Schenectady and flew to Elmira before landing in Jamestown. On Thursday morning, Clark left Jamestown for Saranac Lake with plans to continue on to Plattsburgh.

Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of Beta Technologies, is pictured in front of the all-electric 7,000 pound fixed wing aircraft, which landed in Jamestown Wednesday night and left Thursday morning after being charged.

Clark said this flight was designed to test five new batteries. Over the summer, they made the flight with four batteries. On that trip they didn’t stop in Jamestown because the runway was under construction, so they stopped in Dunkirk and used a portable charger that was brought in by a truck.

After the tests are done, Clark said he hopes to get a contract with the federal government and eventually with private companies for hauling goods.

As a pilot, Clark noted how quiet electric planes are compared to other types of aircraft. “You can take your headset off in here. It’s quiet. Twenty-two feet behind you, there’s a motor that makes zero noise and a five-way propeller that just wooshes. So instead of hearing the beating of a propeller of a rotorhead you just hear the noise of the wind,” he said.

Industries, meanwhile, like electric planes because of the cost savings. “We’re flying at one kilowatt per nautical mile. That’s 10 cents a mile, which is awesome. It’s significantly better than a car,” Clark said.

In fact, during these test runs, there are gas powered planes that travel with his electric airplane from airport to airport. Wednesday night he pointed to a Cessna Caravan, which followed him from Elmira. “When we fueled that thing up over there, it cost about $600 to fuel up for our last stop for our short flight. When we fueled this up it cost $11 in electricity,” he said.

This 7,000 pound fixed aircraft is pictured taxiing at the Jamestown airport, heading to an electric charging station.

Clark believes the low cost of energy can make it much more affordable to fly goods from smaller communities. “Where it’s going to make a difference first in areas like Jamestown is in cargo and package delivery, like UPS, Amazon and FedEx. Instead of bringing everything to their hub and bringing them back out, it’s going to be smaller point-to-point things,” he said.

For example, if there’s a local artist selling an item on Etsy, that person can ship something later in the evening and be competitive with metro areas. “Our goal is to democratize access to aircraft by lowering the cost, keeping them super sustainable. That will go from cargo, to medical, to passenger. It’s not moving wealthy people around cities, in my opinion, it’s access to rural economic development through simple technologies like this,” he said.

Shannon Barnhart, county airports manager, said not only did Beta Technologies install the electric charger, they actually pay the county for any electricity they will use, even though it will be minimal.

She actually came to the airport Wednesday evening on her day off with her children to see the electric plane first-hand.

“This is the future of aviation right here and being right here in Chautauqua County is an exciting opportunity,” she said.

Pictured is the interior of the 7,000 pound fixed wing aircraft flown by Kyle Clark.

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