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First flight for world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft

Published January 30, 2023

First flight for world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft

The largest aircraft in the world to be powered by a hydrogen-electric engine has successfully made its first flight.

A 19-seat Dornier 228 testbed aircraft, retrofitted with a full-size prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain on the left wing of the aircraft, took its maiden flight from a research facility at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire last week.

The flight in the plane, constructed by zero-emission aviation company, ZeroAvia, lasted 10 minutes. The aircraft completed taxi, take-off, a full pattern circuit, and landing. The landmark flight forms part of a major R&D programme which targets development of a 600kW powertrain to support 9-19 seat aircraft worldwide with zero-emission flight.

The twin-engine aircraft was retrofitted to incorporate ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric engine on its left wing, which then operated alongside a single Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on the right.

In this testing configuration, the hydrogen-electric powertrain comprises two fuel cell stacks, with lithium-ion battery packs providing peak power support during take-off and adding additional redundancy for safe testing. In this testbed configuration, hydrogen tanks and fuel cell power generation systems were housed inside the cabin. In a commercial configuration, external storage would be used and the seats restored. 

All systems performed as expected. This was the largest ZeroAvia engine tested to date. ZeroAvia will now work towards to deliver commercial routes using the technology by 2025. The company will then work to develop technology for aircraft with up to 90-seats.