A highly-modified Piper Malibu Mirage took flight in Cranfield, England, last week and made history. The short circuit flight around the airport was notable because of what was powering the plane. It was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which made it the world’s first flight with zero-emission fuel for a “commercial-grade” passenger airplane.

Decarbonized Aviation

ZeroAvia is a leading innovator in the decarbonization of aviation. Their achievement is the first step to realizing the possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen. The company says hydrogen-powered aircraft will soon match the flight distances and payload of the current fossil fuel-powered aircraft.

Hydrogen-powered Aviation

The next step for hydrogen-powered aviation will be 10 to 20 seat aircraft, which is the minimal size boundary for a commercial aircraft. ZeroAvia has its sights set on a 250-mile flight by the end of the year. They’re also working with regulators to write the book on what hydrogen aircraft standards should be. In the next five years, they plan on powering a 50-seat aircraft for a 500 plus mile flight.

HyFlyer Project

The milestone zero-emission flight is part of the HyFlyer project, a sequential R&D program supported by the UK government. It follows the UK’s first commercial-scale battery-electric flight. ZeroAvia is now turning its attention to the next and final stage of its six-seat development program – a 250-mile zero-emission flight before year’s end.

Hydrogen Airport Refueling Ecosystem (HARE)

In addition to the aircraft innovation, ZeroAvia has developed the Hydrogen Airport Refueling Ecosystem (HARE) at Cranfield Airport. It’s a miniature model of what the hydrogen airport eco-system will look like in terms of green hydrogen production, storage, refueling, and fuel cell powered-flight. It also marks another world’s first – a fully operational hydrogen production and refueling airport facility.

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