Shoreline Aviation celebrates commissioning of the Bay State’s first electric plane charging station – Part I

Geoff Douglass brings attention to BETA Technologies’ all electric aircraft ALIA during his remarks. Photo courtesy of BETA Technologies

The delay made the event feel a bit anticlimactic in the weeks leading up to it. Last spring Shoreline Aviation collaborated with electric aerospace pioneer BETA Technologies to install the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ first electric aircraft charging station at Marshfield Municipal Airport (KGHG). A celebration of this aviation history-making step, to feature BETA’s all-electric aircraft ALIA, was scheduled for late June, and ardent climate champion Senator Ed Markey was primed to speak at this game-changing event. Then the rain came. And came and came. For weeks it came. And last minute, the event had to be postponed.

Jump forward to Friday, October 13 (yes, Friday the 13th!) and Mother Nature blessed Massachusetts’ South Shore with the loveliest day imaginable. Not only did ALIA fly in the day before, a gathering of about 75 invited guests came together to cheer the significant advance of transportation technology.

“In recent years, we’ve seen nearly every form of transportation go electric, and now that same shift is beginning to happen in aviation in a very real way,” BETA’s Chief Operating Officer Blain Newton said.

The four-year mission to equip KGHG with the multimodal, interoperable charging station was accomplished in collaboration with Eversource and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division. In fact, without the four-cornered foundation these organizations formed with Shoreline and BETA, and without the foresight of a certain human energy force driving it, this accomplishment would not have come to be.

This calls for an explanation worthy of a fresh cup of coffee.

As we back up to the beginning of the story, this is a good place to note that not only did BETA install their proprietary Level 3 fast charger airside for aircraft to plug in (and ground vehicles, for that matter), they put in a Level 3 charger and a Level 2 charger carside, right through the fence in the terminal parking lot, for the public to utilize for their ground vehicles.

Fact is, there are very few Level 3 chargers on the South Shore. If you want a fast fill up of battery power, just pull your electric vehicle up to the taller charger at 93 Old Colony Lane in Marshfield. In a few minutes you’ll be on your way.

But it didn’t just happen, and it didn’t happen overnight. It almost didn’t happen at all. (Watch the video by BETA, below.)

Geoff Douglass tells the story of his instigating the development of electric aircraft charging stations at Marshfield Municipal Airport. BETA Technologies’ developmental electric aircraft ALIA and Level 3 charging station loom behind. Photo courtesy of BETA Technologies

Geoff Douglass tells the story of his instigating the development of electric aircraft charging stations at Marshfield Municipal Airport. BETA Technologies’ developmental electric aircraft ALIA and Level 3 charging station loom behind. Photo courtesy of BETA Technologies


In the beginning

The idea of installing the charging system at Marshfield Airport began as a conversation between former Shoreline employee and business development specialist Geoff Douglass and BETA. Douglass, the son of Shoreline Aviation President Keith Douglass, knew that aviation was responsible for 3% to 9% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that those numbers will only rise if we don’t invest in sustainable solutions. Mindful of the fragile environment surrounding the airport and the need to decarbonize the aviation industry, he became involved in the national conversation about electric aircraft, which dramatically reduce and eliminate emissions.

“This is a very meaningful moment for Massachusetts, for aviation,” Geoff Douglass told the audience assembled on Oct. 13 for the celebration. “The motivation behind this is we have these heavy industries, aviation is one of them, and shipping, and ground transportation. We have climate goals. We’re up against a pretty steep existential threat. But there are companies trying to solve these problems. Like all technologies, they need to be nurtured. Nothing is ever going to hit the market unless it has the ability to operate. If you have the ability to nurture these technologies, and push industries forward, I feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

At the time there was this new thing called “urban air mobility.” The focus?

“How can we connect people from expensive urban areas, where they can no longer afford to work, to other areas,” Douglass said. “eVOLT (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) electric vertical takoff was all the hype. I started sitting in on NASA workshops and others, talking about how to turn inner city buildings and parking garages into verti-ports. This was before these aircraft even existed.

“They were talking about having to change the fire codes of parking garages and reinforce the structure of the parking garages, and how do we deal with air space. The whole industry was jumping ahead of the things that was going to make it work, and that’s the aircraft itself,” he added, pointing to ALIA behind him at KGHG.

Douglass was not alone in his mindset. He was introduced to the BETA team by leaders in NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility program. BETA, based in South Burlington, Vermont, was already on the case. And has been since it was formed in 2017. Six years ago, BETA had two employees. Today over 400 professionals pursue BETA’s passionate mission to eliminate emissions with electric aircraft.

Originally, Douglass says, urban applications such as parking garages were seen as appropriate for eVTOL aircraft. But he voiced the idea of employing general aviation airports for the job – that’s when the light clicked to use Marshfield as a charging base in Massachusetts.

BETA Technologies’ developmental electric aircraft ALIA is charging at KGHG’s Level 3 charging station. Photo courtesy of BETA Technologies

BETA Technologies’ developmental electric aircraft ALIA is charging at KGHG’s Level 3 charging station. Photo courtesy of BETA Technologies


Electricity roadblock

But one impasse stood in the way – not enough power came down the street. Enter Eversource.

“These aircraft require fast charging, so you need a lot of power,” Douglass said. “This airport infrastructure was outdated. We pulled in (Aeronautics Division Administrator) Jeff DeCarlo’s team at MassDOT; they said hey, anything we can do to help. We looped them into the conversation. We said tell Eversource this is the real deal, something the state’s really interested in, and we got the project going. Eversource was able to leverage grant opportunities they had through the EV Make Ready Program. That was the program that ran the three-phase (electrical power) down.”

Shoreline, BETA, MassDOT Aeronautics, Eversource. A formidable foursome collaborating for a common purpose. BETA’s Newton certainly gets that.

“It’s exciting to be able to fly our all-electric aircraft into Marshfield Municipal Airport on our way down the east coast, and even more exciting to be able to charge it at the state’s very first electric aircraft charger,” Newton said. “As we look to make this new technology a widespread reality, investment in infrastructure and innovation-minded partners will be critical. We’re honored to have the support of partners like Shoreline, the Massachusetts DOT, and Eversource, who are helping to drive that mission forward for their state and beyond.”

The event featured several speakers, each of whom will get unique coverage as we continue this story. Senator Markey couldn’t make it this time (his office was represented), but the event gained a notable presence. Included in the speaking rotation were

  • Colleen D’Alessandro, FAA New England Region Regional Administrator
  • Keith Douglass, Shoreline Aviation President and CEO
  • Geoff Douglass, who departed Shoreline last year to pursue his own transportation start-up
  • Blain Newton, BETA Technologies Chief Operating Officer
  • Tilak Subrahmanian, Eversource Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Electric Mobility
  • Jeff DeCarlo, MassDOT Aeronautics Administrator
  • State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, Senate Climate Control & Global Warming and Transportation committees
  • Marshfield Town Administrator Michael Maresco

Each speaker will be featured in subsequent chapters of this involved story. Stay tuned!

Photos and video courtesy of BETA Technologies. 

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

Read Part 3 here

Read Part 4 here

Read Part 5 here

Read Part 6 here

Read Part 7 here

Read Part 8 here

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