A milestone in aviation took place Thursday, as ZeroAvia flew its largest aircraft yet with a hydrogen-powered engine. Its 19-seat Dornier 228 test aircraft flew 10 minutes from its research and development facility at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, UK.
The twin-engine aircraft was retrofitted to incorporate a hydrogen-electric engine on its left wing that operates alongside a Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on the right.
The landmark flight comes as part of the HyFlyer II project, backed by the British government.
ZeroAvia aims to develop of a 600-kilowatt powertrain to support aircraft worldwide, ranging in configurations from nine to 19 seats, with zero-emission flight.
In this testing configuration, the hydrogen-electric powertrain uses two fuel cell stacks, with lithium-ion battery packs providing peak power support during take-off and adding additional redundancy for safe testing, according to a statement from the company.
In testing, the hydrogen tanks and fuel cell power generation systems are housed inside the cabin. Commercially, they would be mounted externally with the cabin seats restored.
ZeroAvia Founder & CEO Val Miftakhov called it a major moment for his company and the aviation industry as a whole.
“The first flight of our 19-seat aircraft shows just how scalable our technology is and highlights the rapid progress of zero-emission propulsion,” he said in a statement. “This is only the beginning. We are building the future of sustainable, zero climate impact aviation.”
The company said the systems all performed as expected.
ZeroAvia’s previous feats include prototype flights of a 6-seat Piper M-Class airframe in 2019 and the world’s first commercial-scale 6-seater hydrogen-electric powered flight in September 2020.
RELATED STORY: Rolls-Royce tests mtu engine with pure hydrogen fuel
The company has also landed an engine order from American Airlines and entered a partnership agreement with Textron Aviation, among other deals.
In all, ZeroAvia reports 1,500 engines on pre-order among partnerships with seven different aircraft makers.
The company will next fly the Dornier 228 through a series of test flights, hoping to deliver commercial routes using the technology by 2025.
Ultimately ZeroAvia wants to scale its technology over the next decade to be used in aircraft with as many as 90 seats.