TECHNOLOGY

Future is here: World’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft completes maiden flight  

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ZeroAvia, a British-American hydrogen-electric aircraft developer, successfully carried out the maiden test flight of the world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft, a Dornier 228 regional aircraft powered by an electric motor and hydrogen fuel cells.

The 19-seater, twin-engine Dornier 228 airplane, fitted with a prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain, completed a 10-minute flight from Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, UK on January 18.

This feat puts the company one step closer to meeting its target of commercial flights using only hydrogen fuel cell power by 2025.

The Dornier 228 aircraft was partially converted to operate with a hydrogen-electric combination. The left wing’s Honeywell TPE-331 turboprop engine was replaced with ZeroAvia’s ZA-600 electric hydrogen engine.

The fuel and batteries were stored in the passenger cabin, unlike the commercial version which will have hydrogen tanks under the wings.

“This is a major moment, not just for ZeroAvia, but for the aviation industry as a whole, as it shows that true zero-emission commercial flight is only a few years away. The first flight of our 19-seat aircraft shows just how scalable our technology is and highlights the rapid progress of zero-emission propulsion,” said Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia.

The company also plans to order 600 to 700 engines within two years and is already searching for a location to build an assembly line for them.

ZeroAvia had already performed flight tests with a Piper Malibu converted to be powered by an electric-hydrogen engine in 2020, within the HyFlyer I program.

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