ZeroAvia Seeks Airline For First Commercial Hydrogen Flight

 - November 1, 2021, 8:24 AM
UK regional carrier Aurigny Air has provided ZeroAvia with a Dornier 228 to use for development work with its hydrogen propulsion system. (Photo: ZeroAvia)

Hydrogen-electric commercial air service could start between London and Rotterdam in 2024, based on a partnership announced last week involving propulsion system developer ZeroAvia, the Royal Schiphol Group, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, and the airport's RTHI innovation foundation. The partners say they have reached advanced talks with prospective airlines to operate the flights with the 19-seat Dornier 228 twin turboprop that ZeroAvia uses as a technology demonstrator.

ZeroAvia is already working to develop a 600-kW hydrogen-fuel-cell-based powertrain that could apply to multiple 19-seater aircraft. Having secured two Do-228 test aircraft, it intends to start flight testing the first of them as part of its HyFlyer II program later this year. UK-based regional carrier Aurigny Air has provided one of the test aircraft.

HyFlyer II's objective is to support a range of up to around 500 miles, which is significantly farther than the 200-mile London to Rotterdam route. During the earlier HyFlyer I project, which used a six-seat Piper Malibu aircraft, ZeroAvia said that it achieved cruise flight fueled entirely by hydrogen-electric power, with batteries used only for supplementary power during takeoff. The company explained to AIN that it will conduct work on the 600 kW system in stages, starting with a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery combination this year, then progressing to hydrogen-only flight in mid-2022.

ZeroAvia recently established a company in the Netherlands it says will support its efforts to develop commercial applications for its propulsion technology in the country and throughout the 27 European Union (EU) member states. It says the new partnership will collaborate on regulation, testing, and adoption of technology for commercial operations.

The California-based venture also has a subsidiary in the UK, allowing it to benefit from financial support provided by the UK-government-backed Aerospace Technology Institute. That company, based at Cotswold Airport in the west of England, now employs more than 50 people and anticipates hiring more, as it continues certification work with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

“Boarding a zero-emission flight from Rotterdam to London is only the beginning of green aviation, and that will only be made possible by pioneering and promoting innovation in the sector,” said Rotterdam The Hague Airport CEO Ron Louwerse. “With the Netherlands as the testing ground for aviation, we strengthen our competitive position, knowledge base, and business climate.”

In the longer term, ZeroAvia intends to convert larger airliners, carrying 50 to 100 seats, to hydrogen propulsion. Such a project would require powertrains rated between 2 and 5 MW.

The original Dornier 228 remained in production until 1998 and was powered by a pair of Garrett TPE331 turboprops. In 2009, Ruag started working on a so-called New Generation version of the aircraft in partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics, before selling the program to General Atomics. More recently, the Bavarian state government has been funding a program led by German aerospace research group DLR and MTU Aero Engines to develop a hybrid-electric version.

This story is from FutureFlight.aero, a news and information resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage and analysis of cutting-edge aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments and advanced air mobility.