Los Angeles and Moses Lake: A US firm, Universal Hydrogen, has successfully flown a 40-passenger regional airliner using hydrogen fuel cell propulsion, Business Wire reported on Thursday.
Hydrogen is the ideal fuel for flight and will power aviation's new golden age, where planes are powered by renewables and emit nothing but water. The airplane, nicknamed Lightning McClean, took off at 8:41 am PST from Grant County International Airport (KMWH) and flew for 15 minutes, reaching an altitude of 3,500 MSL, according to the report.
The flight, conducted under the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Special Airworthiness Certificate, was the first in a two-year flight test campaign expected to culminate in 2025 with entry into passenger service of ATR 72 regional aircraft converted to run on hydrogen.
Representatives from Connect Airlines and Amelia, the US and European launch customers for the hydrogen airplanes, respectively, were on hand to witness the historic flight.
The report said the company has a rapidly growing order book, today totalling 247 aircraft conversions from 16 customers worldwide, totalling over USD 1 billion in conversions backlog and over USD 2 billion in fuel services over the first ten years of operation.
"Today will go down in the history books as the true start to the decarbonization of the global airline industry and we at Connect Airlines are extremely proud of the role that we, as the first US operator, will play in leading the way with Universal Hydrogen," said John Thomas, CEO of Connect Airlines.
Connect, which will begin regional turboprop service this spring, has placed a first-position US order with Universal Hydrogen to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains with purchase rights for 25 additional aircraft conversions.
Deliveries will start in 2025, the report said.
"We have committed to being North America's first zero-emission airline and this historic flight, taking hydrogen, which can be made with nothing but sunshine and emitting only water, is a key milestone on our journey," Thomas added.