Hydrogen-powered regional airline Zeroavia makes its first flight

Hydrogen-powered regional airline Zeroavia makes its first flight
Courtesy of ZeroAvia

The Hydrogen-electric propulsion system of ZeroAvia's Dornier 228 aircraft enabled ZeroAvia to make its long-awaited first flight. On the left wing of the 19-seat airliner, a fuel-cell-based ZA600 powertrain has replaced the two Honeywell TPE-331 engines.

For a 10-minute flight, ZeroAvia's aircraft took off from its research and development base at Cotswold Airport, UK, at 1.35 p.m. local time. In 2025, the company hopes to enter commercial service with its first converted regional airliner as a result of a flight test campaign launched at the event.

A partnership with the manufacturer of the first aircraft type converted to gaseous hydrogen as well as an airline customer launch will be announced shortly by ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftahkov. It will be a ten to 19-seat aircraft that will be certified in accordance with Part 23.

In order to establish the basis for approval, ZeroAvia plans to submit a type certificate application by the end of 2023, initially with the UK Civil Aviation Authority. A supplemental type certificate will also be sought for each specific aircraft type.

The company is developing a 2.5-megawatt powertrain suitable for aircraft carrying 90 passengers in the long run. A ground test is planned for 2023, and the organization is working on securing approvals for its design and production organizations.

During takeoff and safety redundancy, the current test configuration includes two fuel cell stacks and lithium-ion batteries to support peak power.

Fuel cells and hydrogen fuel tanks were located inside the cabin for test flights. The storage of these items will be outside the fuselage on production aircraft. The ZeroAvia partner Powercell, which manufactured the fuel cells, produced water vapor during the first flight.

Courtesy of ZeroAvia

Flights from Kemble and other airports will continue to refine ZeroAvia's powertrain design throughout the year. After reaching an altitude of 2,000 feet and a speed of 120 knots, the demonstration aircraft flew for just under half of its current endurance limit of 25 minutes. Over the course of the flight test campaign, ZeroAvia plans to gradually increase flight durations.

A total of 1,500 propulsion systems have been provisionally ordered by ZeroAvia. According to Miftakhov, between 600 and 700 of these will be used for aircraft with 19 seats or fewer. It is anticipated that the company will begin taking deposits for delivery slots this year.

ZeroAvia, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Air are among the carriers that have expressed an interest in hydrogen-powered aircraft. There is now a plan to raise additional funds for Miftakhov, according to the company.

A gaseous hydrogen electrolyzer provides the gaseous hydrogen for flight testing. It says its refueling system will mirror the infrastructure at commercial airports, which was developed in partnership with the Scottish-based European Marine Energy Centre.

The developer of a hydrogen propulsion system for regional airplanes, Universal Hydrogen, has announced it is close to conducting its first flight test on the larger Dash 8 aircraft in Washington state. Due to technical issues and weather delays, both companies had planned to begin flight tests in 2022.

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