Universal Hydrogen Co., the company making zero-emissions aviation a near-term reality, has achieved an important milestone. It recently conducted a test flight of a 40-passenger regional airliner using hydrogen fuel cell propulsion which marked the history of converting aircrafts to run on hydrogen.
The airplane named Lightning McClean, took off from the Grant County International Airport (KMWH) and flew for 15 minutes, reaching an altitude of 3,500 MSL. The flight was the first in a two-year flight test campaign. A passenger service of the ATR 72 regional aircraft converted to fly on hydrogen fuel is expected to become a reality in 2025.
Some customers of Universal Hydrogen also witnessed the test flight, including representatives from Connect Airlines, Amelia, and other European and US customers. According to the company’s press release its order book is rapidly growing. So far it has received orders for 247 aircraft conversions from 16 customers worldwide, totaling over $1 billion in conversions backlog and over $2 billion in fuel services over the first ten years of operation.
For the test flight, one of the aircraft’s turbine engines was replaced with the fuel cell-electric megawatt-class powertrain of Universal Hydrogen, and the other remained a conventional engine for the safety of the flight.
“During the second circuit over the airport, we were comfortable with the performance of the hydrogen powertrain, so we were able to throttle back the fossil fuel turbine engine to demonstrate cruise principally on hydrogen power… The airplane handled beautifully, and the noise and vibrations from the fuel cell powertrain are significantly lower than from the conventional turbine engine,” commented the pilot of the test flight Alex Kroll – an experienced former U.S. Air Force test pilot and the company’s chief test pilot.