Thursday, 29 Oct 2020

World’s first hydrogen-powered commercial plane takes to the skies

The first hydrogen-powered commercial plane in the world has successfully taken to the skies – with hopes it won't be long until it can fly passengers.

All that the six-seater Piper M-class aircraft emits is water vapour.

The firm which made the technology now hopes to to make hydrogen planes available commercially.

It would mean holidaymakers can travel without feeling guilty over damaging the environment.

ZeroAvia says it aims to make it happen in the next three years.

The company claims a long, zero-emissions flight could take place by the end of the 2020s, Sky News reports.

But airports are currently only designed for gas-guzzling planes.

And it means using hydrogen planes instead would involve having to change ground operations at airports to support them so they can refuel.

ZeroAvia’s founder and boss Val Miftakhov told the broadcaster: "What we're doing is replacing fossil fuel engines with what's called hydrogen electric engines.

"We also have a fuelling infrastructure set up that ensures zero emission production of hydrogen itself."

The 20-minute flight, which took place above Cranfield, Bedfordshire on Thursday, saw it complete take-off and a full pattern circuit before landing down.

Val Miftakhov says he hopes it won’t be too long until there are paying passengers on board.

A prototype plane with the same type of engine has flown before.

But bosses say it is the first time such a commercially available aircraft has taken to the skies using hydrogen power.

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David Gleave, an aviation safety investigator and researcher from Loughborough University, said: "It's not just a question of putting hydrogen-based aeroplanes and getting them to work, we need the infrastructure on the ground to support everything.

"We have to work out how to refuel these aeroplanes because existing infrastructure won't work and we have to work out other things such as the fire and rescue requirements for the aeroplane, so there's quite a lot of work to do but certainly it's very exciting going forward."

The business now aims to carry out a 250-mile flight out of an airfield in Orkney, Scotland.

The project is being supported by the UK government under the Jet Zero Council partnership, which aims to make net-zero emissions flights possible in the future in a bid to tackle climate change.

Aviation Minister Robert Courts said: “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges faced by modern society, and we know we need to go further and faster if we’re to make businesses sustainable long into the future.

“This is world-beating technology which has an economic opportunity for Britain as well as answering the global climate change challenge.”

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