By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Beta Technologies CEO makes precautionary landing in personal airplane

Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of the eVTOL developer Beta Technologies, safely landed an Antonov An-2 biplane in an empty field last week after the aircraft apparently experienced engine trouble.

Beta CEO Kyle Clark An-2
Beta CEO Kyle Clark was flying this An-2 to Burlington, Vermont, when engine trouble prompted him to make a precautionary landing short of the airport. Photo via the Richmond Rescue Facebook page

There were no injuries and no damage reported in the Aug. 15 incident in Richmond, Vermont, which made local headlines. According to VTDigger, Clark was flying the personally owned plane from Laconia, New Hampshire, to Burlington, Vermont, along with Border Air founder George Coy, a pilot and mechanic with experience on the model.

The aircraft, which was manufactured in Poland in 1969, has a single gas-powered radial engine. In an audio recording of communications with air traffic control, Clark indicates that there was “smoke in the engine . . . sounds like we’ve lost a cylinder.” Coy later told VTDigger: “We just had a little bit of engine trouble and decided to land.”

The An-2 made a controlled landing in a field next to Interstate 89, where emergency responders found Clark and Coy unhurt.

A Beta spokesperson confirmed to eVTOL.com that “Mr. Clark, a highly experienced pilot and certified flight instructor, and a passenger walked away without injury. In addition, there were no injuries or damage on the ground. Mr. Clark is grateful to the first responders who arrived on the scene.”

In addition to his CEO role, Clark serves as a test pilot for Burlington-based Beta, which is developing the Alia eVTOL. The company is backed by investors including Fidelity and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, and counts UPS among its first customers.

Although the An-2 was not part of Beta’s fleet, the company has more than a dozen conventional planes and helicopters that it uses for logistics and transportation, as well as employee flight training. On July 30, one of its helicopters, an Enstrom 280FX, was destroyed in a forced landing and fire on a causeway across Lake Champlain, injuring pilot Nathaniel Fortin.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the accident, Fortin was flying between Burlington and Plattsburgh, New York, when he “smelled something burning and then observed smoke in the cockpit.” Fortin initiated a precautionary landing but soon experienced a complete loss of engine power, forcing him to execute an autorotation to the causeway.

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