Montgomery Regional Leaps Into the Future With Electric Aircraft Chargers

Montgomery Regional Leaps Into the Future With Electric Aircraft Chargers
Kristin V. Shaw
Published in: 

Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM) in Alabama claimed a spot in aviation history this February as one of the first U.S. airports to open a station with state-of-the-art chargers for electric aircraft. 

When crews broke ground for the project last October, Executive Director Wade Davis called the event a “significant leap forward for the future of aviation, our airport and the aviation industry as a whole.” That’s not hyperbole. While battery-powered aircraft is still an emerging technology, it’s front and center in the news. That’s especially true for Beta Technologies of Burlington, VT, which not only provided—and funded—the aircraft chargers at MGM but also builds electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft.

MGM is located in an area steeped in aviation history and current development. Montgomery was the site of the first U.S. civilian flying school, opened in 1910 by none other than Wilbur and Orville Wright. Just north of there is Redstone Arsenal, the home of NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, the U.S. government’s civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center. To the south near Mobile, AL, is the first U.S. commercial aircraft production site for Airbus. 


Project: Electric Aircraft Charging Station

Location: Montgomery Regional Airport

Airport Owner: City of Montgomery, AL

Funding: 100% from Beta Technologies

Number of Chargers: 2

Engineering & Planning Consultant: Goodwyn Mills Cawood

Construction Project Manager: Enertech

Charging Equipment: Beta Technologies

Groundbreaking: Oct. 2023

Installation Complete: Dec. 2023

Chargers Open: Feb. 2024

“This electric aircraft charger project makes sense in Montgomery for a number of reasons,” Davis explains. “From the sustainability standpoint, eventually aircraft will go that way, and we want to be on the front end of that curve. Having a high-speed charging facility for aircraft opens new doors and business opportunities.”

The Future is Here

Remember the bubble-shaped vehicles swooshing all over the sky in The Jetsons? They weren’t called VTOLs, but that’s the basic concept: aircraft that lift straight into the sky and can travel in every direction. In real life, a very small percentage of people have seen these battery-powered aircraft. Others may even doubt they exist, thinking of them as fanciful creations that might appear someday way into the future.

The reality is that these aircraft have been in testing for years, and some industry watchers say they are on the cusp of mass adoption. Beta Technologies has conducted more than 25,000 hours of testing and flown more than 500 piloted flights of its battery-powered aircraft, and it’s gearing up for next steps. These whisper-quiet aircraft are touted as smart alternatives for deliveries and smaller, congested airspaces. And because they don’t burn fossil fuels, they don’t produce any direct carbon emissions.

But without a robust charging network, they won’t get far.

“The chargers we’re focused on launching this year are developed in-house here in Burlington,” explains Nate Ward, head of Network Development for Beta. “When we looked around, we noticed there are a lot of solutions for car chargers but fewer for aviation chargers.”

Leaders from Beta note that the company is well funded (it closed a $375 million Series B funding round in 2022) and growing. In 2021, the company agreed to sell 10 eVTOL aircraft to United Parcel Service for package deliveries. The electric technology supports UPS’ goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050 and allows the company to explore a new way to advance past its competitors. Both companies see their deal as a major milestone for the commercial acceptance of eVTOLs. Beta founder Kyle Clark told CNBC that the partnership “telegraphs to the entire business community that electric vertical aircraft are real.”

They’re already feeling real at MGM, which opened an electric aircraft charging station on Feb. 5 this year. Ward notes that Beta has been charging vehicles for more than a decade, but there are more nuances involved when chargers are brought inside the security fence of an airport. He praises the team at MGM for its vision and positive relationship. All parties recognize that this installation will have myriad stages of development, he notes.

“It’s a process, not an event,” Ward specifies.

Building the Infrastructure

Goodwyn Mills Cawood has served as MGM’s airport engineer and planning consultant since 2009 and has been through several rounds of reselections ever since. The consulting firm was in the middle of developing an airport terminal area plan and layout plan update when Beta reached out to MGM. Davis consequently asked Matt Thomason, a planning leader/project manager with the consulting firm to come along to the meeting. Both were impressed with the potential of what Beta proposed. As a follow up, Davis visited Beta headquarters in Vermont to better understand the parameters.

Among MGM’s stated goals are several clues about its forward-leaning orientation: Build a “high-performance” organization, expand for the future, strengthen relationships in the community, enhance our airport’s sustainability efforts, deliver a world-class customer experience, and infuse innovation and technology while maintaining efficiency. The Beta initiative fits squarely into those goals. Check, check, check.

“MGM has always been a very unique place,” Thomason says. “The airport covers every type of aviation. There is a heavy general aviation presence, plus corporate, military and commercial. It’s an airport for all uses and users. It has the facilities to support all this activity, and the airport plays a pivotal role in the future of the region.”

Most of Beta’s chargers are Level 3 (also called DC fast-charging), capable of 50 kilowatts or more of power. The goal is to fully charge an aircraft in less than an hour. 

“When we think about putting a charger in the ground, we’re looking to align with airport stakeholders like airport administration and planning (architecture and engineering),” Ward says. “Typically, the airport doesn’t change for decades, so the charger needs to fit for a long time.”

It’s Happening

The charging station at MGM was installed near the fixed base operator’s parking lot to maximize space and flow on the tarmac and taxiways. It’s also highly visible to everyone who enters and exits the airport.

“What we’re really trying to do is amp up VIP visibility status to not only promote the airport, but Beta and Montgomery Aviation,” Thomason explains. “You see this with cars; EVs get prime parking spots to promote use and visibility. Critically, we had to make sure this station wouldn’t interfere with the FBO’s regular activity, because charging could conceivably take longer than fueling an aircraft with Jet A. We wanted to build in growth potential.”

One aspect that was particularly appealing to Davis was that Beta didn’t require or request any capital expenditure. By partnering with MGM and other airports in the region, Beta is building a network for its own eVTOL and fixed-wing electric aircraft fleet and others. And by providing charging networks to airports at no cost, it puts the company in a unique position to capitalize on its vision, hand in glove.

“Electrification in aviation is happening,” says Thomason. “It’s not far out of reach. I think it’s prudent to include electrification as part of the airport’s planning process. The base infrastructure we’re putting in can be retained and adapted as the industry dictates.”

After the decision was made to move forward, things happened very quickly. The partnership was forged, crews broke ground in November 2023, and installation was complete by mid-December. Thomason says that Beta is leading the charge (no pun intended), and its instincts to build infrastructure are prescient. “Look at battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars that require charging, and it’s easy to see what happens when the product comes before the infrastructure,” he notes. Beta is working to sidestep that potential challenge by putting time and money into the charging network before ramping up production of electric aircraft.

The new chargers opened on schedule in early February.
The new chargers opened on schedule in early February.

At the same time, Davis appreciates the opportunity to expand MGM’s battery-powered footprint. The new aircraft charging units unlock opportunities to change the way the airport runs electric tugs and other ground support equipment.

“It’s exciting to be on the forefront of aviation,” says Davis. “It’s fun and interesting to get a glimpse of what the future may look like. It’s here, it’s real, and it’s right here in Montgomery.”

Ground Support

2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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