Hydrogen-powered test plane to start flying in January

The first flight of a pair of hydrogen-powered technology demonstrator aircraft is now scheduled for early 2023. As 2022 looms, rivals ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen are making final preparations to begin flight-testing their respective Dornier 228 and Dash 8-300 twin turboprop regional jets.

On 23 December, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued a flight permit for ZeroAvia’s 19-seat Dornier 228, which has been undergoing ground testing at Kemble Airport in the UK for several months. One of the aircraft’s Honeywell TPE-331 turboprop engines has been replaced by the US start-up’s hydrogen-electric powertrain.

ZeroAvia has received funding from the UK’s HyFlyer II scheme, which aims to complete the production configuration of the ZA600 propulsion system by the end of 2023. The company aims to have the first aircraft converted under the Supplemental Type Certificate and enter commercial service during the 2025 period. It has reported “pre-orders” for 1,500 of the 600-kilowatt engines and has been working with airlines as they prepare to begin operations.

The CAA’s license was issued under the aviation safety agency’s Part 21 regulations, which are more stringent than the experimental conditions applicable to ZeroAvia’s earlier testing of the six-seat Piper Malibu aircraft that began in 2020. The plane crashed during a flight. In April 2021, the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch reported that an error in the inverter lockout procedure caused the sudden power outage.

Universal Hydrogen aims to transform large aircraft

Like ZeroAvia, Universal Hydrogen plans to begin flying its technology demonstrator by the end of 2022. In mid-December, the American company confirmed future flight The first flight of the refitted Dash 8 has been rescheduled for January because of taxi tests in the run-up to the holidays.

A spokesman for Universal Hydrogen said: “In terms of timing, the integration of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain into the flight test aircraft has taken a little longer than expected. The integration is now complete and the aircraft is undergoing ground testing. Our goal It’s the taxi test holiday and the first flight in January.”

Universal Hydrogen’s business plan calls for it to begin deliveries of the converted 70-seat ATR72 and ATR 42 twin turboprop aircraft in 2025, according to the STC issued by the FAA. It also intends to produce a hydrogen-powered version of the 50-seat Dash 8 aircraft and has reported tentative orders for two models at its New Mexico factory.

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