ABOVE: The Dornier 228 flew with a hydrogen-electric powertrain on its left wing 

ZeroAvia has flown the largest aircraft to date to be powered by a hybrid hydrogen-electric engine. In a historic flight, its 19-seat Dornier 228 flew for ten minutes from the company’s R&D facility at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, UK to test the aircraft systems.

The twin-engine aircraft has been retrofitted with a hydrogen-electric powertrain on its left wing, retaining a stock Honeywell TPE-331 engine on the right. In this test configuration, the hydrogen-electric powertrain comprises two fuel cell stacks, with lithium-ion battery packs providing peak power support during take-off. Hydrogen tanks and fuel cell power generation systems were housed inside the prototype’s cabin – in a commercial configuration, external storage would be used and the seats reinstalled. The compressed gaseous hydrogen used as fuel was produced by an on-site electrolyzer.

This is the largest ZeroAvia engine tested to date, and the company hopes to have a certifiable configuration finalised and submitted for certification in 2023, and to service commercial routes using the technology by 2025.

Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO said, “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.”

Secretary of State for Business, Grant Shapps, added, “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.”

Late in 2022 two other maiden flights showed that sustainable regional airliners are within reach: the all-electric Alice, a nine-passenger commuter aircraft, flew in October, followed in November by Ampaire’s hybrid Cessna Caravan, powered by a diesel-electric system.