Hydrogen airliner taxis out, cleared for takeoff
The Dash 8-300 will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to fly, and second as a hydrogen-powered aircraft only to the Tupolev Tu-155 tested in 1988 with one jet engine converted to burn hydrogen.
Photo: Universal Hydrogen
Upon successful completion of its upcoming first flight, Universal Hydrogen’s 40+ passenger Dash 8-300 will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to ever fly.
Universal Hydrogen Co. has been granted a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to proceed with the first flight of its hydrogen-powered regional aircraft. The company has already conducted successful first taxi tests of the aircraft, designed to evaluate ground handling qualities and the performance of the fuel-cell electric powertrain at low power settings and airspeeds.
The Dash 8-300 flying testbed has a megawatt-class hydrogen fuel cell powertrain installed in one of its nacelles. The powertrain is in a configuration that closely resembles the company’s first product – a conversion kit for ATR 72-600 regional airliners – which is expected to be certified and in commercial passenger service starting in 2025. The powertrain does not use a hybrid battery architecture, instead transmitting power directly from the fuel cells to the electric motor, significantly decreasing weight and lifecycle cost.
The FAA approval clears the way for the first flight of the Dash 8-300 flying testbed which will take place at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The aircraft will be by far the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to take to the skies, and second as a hydrogen-powered aircraft only to the Soviet flight test in 1988 of a Tupolev Tu-155 airliner with one of its jet engines converted to burn hydrogen.
Universal Hydrogen unveiled in December 2022 first operational tests of its modular hydrogen delivery system at its engineering center in Toulouse, France. Those tests demonstrated a pragmatic, near-term, and highly scalable approach to hydrogen delivery to airports and into the aircraft using a modular capsule technology. This eliminates the need for costly new infrastructure, with any airport capable of handling cargo being hydrogen-ready. It also eliminates transfer losses and significantly speeds up hydrogen fueling operationsandmdash;both significant pain points for the zero-emissions fuel.
“We are simultaneously providing a pragmatic, near-term solution for hydrogen infrastructure and delivery, as well as for converting existing passenger aircraft to use this lightweight, safe, and true-zero-emissions fuel,” says Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “Today’s milestones are essential, important steps to putting the industry on a trajectory to meet Paris Agreement obligations. The only alternative is curtailing aviation traffic growth to curb emissions.”