World’s largest electric aircraft takes flight

The largest aircraft in the world to be powered by a hydrogen-electric engine, a 19-seat Dornier 228, has flown with a full-size prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain on the left wing of the aircraft.

The ZeroAvia aircraft completed taxi, take-off, a full pattern circuit, and landing. The landmark flight forms part of the HyFlyer II project, a major R&D programme backed by the Government’s flagship ATI Programme, which targets development of a 600kW powertrain to support 9-19 seat aircraft worldwide with zero-emission flight.

The hydrogen-electric powertrain comprises two fuel cell stacks, with lithium-ion battery packs providing peak power support during take-off and adding additional redundancy for safe testing. In this testbed configuration, hydrogen tanks and fuel cell power generation systems were housed inside the cabin. In a commercial configuration, external storage would be used and the seats restored.

ZeroAvia’s 2-5 MW powertrain programme, already underway, will scale the clean engine technology for up to 90-seat aircraft, with further expansion into narrowbody aircraft demonstrators over the next decade. ZeroAvia will now work towards its certifiable configuration in order to deliver commercial routes using the technology by 2025.

This first flight follows an engine order from American Airlines, a partnership agreement with Textron Aviation and infrastructure partnerships with airports including Rotterdam, Edmonton International and AGS Airports. ZeroAvia has stated that it now has 1,500 engines on pre-order, partnerships with seven aircraft manufacturers, and a number of fuel and airport partnerships.

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