The world’s first hydrogen-electric passenger flight was successfully completed on 24 September, potentially bringing the aviation industry a step closer to zero-emissions air travel.
The six-seater aircraft did a taxi, takeoff, full pattern circuit and landing at an airfield in Cranfield, England.
ZeroAvia, the company behind the plane, said it was the first ever hydrogen fuel cell-powered flight using a commercial-grade aircraft.
The brand’s retrofitted Piper M-class is now the largest hydrogen-powered aircraft in the world.
After a successful first trial, ZeroAvia will move on to the next and final stage of its six-seat development program: a 250-mile zero emissions flight before the end of 2020, which will take off from an airfield in Orkney, Scotland.
The distance is roughly equivalent to that of Los Angeles to San Francisco or London to Edinburgh.
ZeroAvia’s CEO, Val Miftakhov, said: “It’s hard to put into words what this means to our team, but also for everybody interested in zero-emission flight.
“While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon.”
The flight is part of a wider R&D project, dubbed HyFlyer, which has secured government investment.
Aviation Minister Robert Courts said: “Aviation is a hotbed of innovation and ZeroAvia’s fantastic technology takes us all one step closer to a sustainable future for air travel.”
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi added of the milestone flight: “It shows that technologies to clean up air travel are now at our fingertips – with enormous potential to build back better and drive clean economic growth in the UK.”
Alongside the hydro-electric plane, ZeroAvia has also developed the Hydrogen Airport Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) at Cranfield Airport in partnership with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).
ZeroAvia describes it as “a microcosm of what the hydrogen airport ecosystem will look like in terms of green hydrogen production, storage, refuelling and fuel cell powered-flight.”
It’s the world’s first fully operational hydrogen production and refuelling airport facility for primary commercial aircraft propulsion, according to the company.
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