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Universal Hydrogen Commences Flight Test Campaign for Hydrogen Aircraft

10 Oct 2023

Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft Takes to the Skies

Universal Hydrogen Co. has officially launched its flight test campaign for hydrogen-powered regional aircraft, marking a significant milestone in sustainable aviation. This endeavor follows the successful inaugural flight of the world's largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered airplane in March 2023, setting records as the largest aircraft primarily powered by hydrogen.

A Historic Journey for Hydrogen Aviation

In June 2023, Universal Hydrogen accomplished another feat by ferrying the aircraft from Moses Lake, Washington, to Mojave, California. This achievement, filled with several "firsts," showcased the expanded capabilities of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. With ten test flights now under its belt, Universal Hydrogen is progressing toward its objective of entering commercial service by 2026.

A Promising Flight Test

The kickoff flight, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, involved retracting flaps and landing gear as the aircraft reached an altitude of 5,000 feet MSL (Mean Sea Level). The flight included several passes over the airport with the conventional engine throttled back, while the hydrogen powertrain operated at full power. This test aimed to measure the noise level reduction expected from fuel cell-electric propulsion.

Positive Impact on Climate and Communities

Angelina Galiteva, CEO of ARCHES, expressed excitement about witnessing Universal Hydrogen's zero-emission aircraft flying over California. She highlighted the company's contribution to mitigating climate change, improving local air quality, and creating employment opportunities through technological innovation. ARCHES, part of the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems, looks forward to partnering with Universal Hydrogen to make zero-emission flight accessible to all.

A Two-Year Flight Test Campaign

The flight marks the beginning of a comprehensive two-year flight test campaign. Initially, the focus will be on optimizing the performance of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, introducing new hardware, including an aviation-grade turbocompressor custom-developed to allow flights up to 25,000 feet MSL—matching the operating ceiling of the Dash 8 aircraft.

Innovative Hydrogen Storage Solutions

Universal Hydrogen's patented modular liquid hydrogen fuel storage system will also be introduced during the test program. Moreover, the campaign will include certification testing to ensure the production configuration of the aircraft meets all FAA-mandated airworthiness and safety requirements.

FAA Certification Milestone

The recent issuance of the G-1 issue paper by the FAA signifies a significant milestone in the aviation industry. This paper details the certification basis for hydrogen-powered commercial passenger aircraft, marking a pioneering step toward a sustainable future in aviation.

California's Role in Sustainable Energy

California Assemblyman Tom Lackey praised the partnership between Universal Hydrogen and the Mojave Air & Space Port, emphasizing the region's commitment to innovation and sustainability. The collaboration is expected to not only benefit the local area but also maintain California's competitiveness in sustainable energy.

Universal Hydrogen's California Presence

Universal Hydrogen strategically chose the Mojave Air & Space Port as its aircraft and flight test base to bolster its presence in California. With headquarters and an engineering center in Hawthorne, the company aims to tap into the rich engineering talent pool in the Los Angeles and Mojave regions.

Revolutionizing the Aviation Industry

Tim Reid, General Manager of Mojave Air & Space Port, expressed excitement about working with Universal Hydrogen to reduce aircraft emissions using sustainable hydrogen fuel. He believes that the company's innovative technology, combined with existing regional aircraft, will transform the aviation industry, facilitating an efficient, affordable, and rapid transition to zero-emission transportation.

Air New Zealand's Commitment to Sustainability

Kiri Hannifin, Chief Sustainability Officer of Air New Zealand, highlighted their partnership with Universal Hydrogen as they strive to replace regional turboprops with a lower-emission fleet by 2030. She commended Universal Hydrogen's progress and expressed anticipation for their continued journey toward certification and service entry.

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