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Fri, Jan 20, 2023

ZeroAvia’s Hydrogen-Electric Engine Powers Dornier 228 Test Aircraft

Complexities of the Simplest Element

ZeroAvia, the British/American hydrogen-electric aircraft developer, announced on 19 January 2023 that it had successfully flown a 19-seat Dornier 228 testbed aircraft, the left-engine of which had been replaced with a full-size prototype of the company’s hydrogen-electric powertrain.

The test aircraft’s right-engine remained the 776-shaft-horsepower Honeywell TPE-331 turboprop mill rightly bestowed upon the 228 by Dornier Flugzeugwerke and Almighty God.

In its testing configuration, ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric powertrain comprises two fuel-cell stacks with lithium-ion battery packs providing peak power support during take-off, and adding a measure of redundancy conducive to safe operations. During the inaugural flight, the powertrain’s hydrogen tanks and fuel-cell power generation systems were housed within the test aircraft’s cabin. To accommodate passengers and cargo, future commercial incarnations of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric powertrain will utilize external hydrogen storage.

The test aircraft departed ZeroAvia’s Research and Development (R&D) facility on Gloucestershire, UK’s Cotswold Airport at 13:35 GT and remained aloft approximately ten-minutes. All systems reportedly performed to expectations and the test aircraft landed without incident.

ZeroAvia, founder and CEO Val Miftakhov remarked: “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. This is only the beginning—we are building the future of sustainable, zero-climate-impact aviation. Our approach is the best solution to accelerate clean aviation at scale. Congratulations to everyone on our team and all of our partners and stakeholders for the collective effort that brought us to this monumental day in history.”

U.K. Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Grant Shapps stated: “Today’s flight is a hugely exciting vision of the future—guilt-free flying and a big step forward for zero-emission air travel. It also demonstrates how government funding for projects like these is translating into net zero growth.”

ZeroAvia’s development of hydrogen-electric powertrains is subsidized by Project HyFlyer—a U.K. governmental initiative that aims to decarbonize regional passenger aircraft by replacing conventional, piston and gas-turbine powerplants with electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells.

Mr. Shapps added: “The UK is a world leader in green aviation technology, and the global shift to cleaner forms of flight represents a huge opportunity to secure growth and jobs for our country. That’s why we are backing businesses who share our ambitions, reaping the benefits of green technology and growing the thousands of new, skilled jobs that come with it.”

ZeroAvia’s Dornier 228 testbed aircraft will next conduct additional test flights from Cotswold Airport before departing south-central England and embarking upon a series of demonstration flights across the U.K.  

In 2019, ZeroAvia flew a prototype, hydrogen-electric-powered Piper Malibu. In 2020 the company conducted the U.K.’s first ever electric-powered flight of a commercial-scale aircraft. The January 2023 Dornier 228 test-flight vetted the largest ZeroAvia engine flown to date, and advanced the company significantly toward its goal of submitting its powerplant design for EASA certification in 2023.

Of particular note is the fact the Dornier 228 test-flight was conducted under a full Part 21 flight permit issued by the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). U.K. CAA’s Part 21 encompasses requirements more stringent than those under which ZeroAvia tested its previous prototype powertrains. The issuance of the Part 21 flight permit speaks to the maturity of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric architectures and evinces the company’s readiness to proceed towards full commercial certification of its powerplants.

By dint of sound engineering and hard work, ZeroAvia has prospered in recent months. The company has secured upwards of 1,500 pre-orders for its hydrogen-electric powerplants from customers the likes of American Airlines, and entered into partnerships with seven aircraft manufacturers—to include Textron Aviation. What’s more, ZeroAvia has signed hydrogen-fuel infrastructure agreements with Rotterdam (RTM), Edmonton International (YEG) and Augusta Regional (AGS) airports.



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