FAA grants Universal Hydrogen experimental airworthiness certificate

Feb. 10, 2023
Once airborne, Universal Hydrogen’s 40+ passenger Dash 8-300 will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to ever fly.

HAWTHORNE, Calif. - Universal Hydrogen in Hawthorne, Calif., have announced that the aviation fuel cell company have been granted clearance by the Federal Aviation Administration to make the first flight of its hydrogen-powered test airplane in Washington.

The company has developed a conversion kit for the De Havilland Canada Dash-8 regional aircraft to fly with a hydrogen-powered electric fuel cell to replace the traditional turboprop engines.

The Dash 8-300 flying testbed has a megawatt-class hydrogen fuel cell powertrain installed in one of its nacelles. The powertrain is in a configuration that closely resembles the company’s first product—a conversion kit for ATR 72-600 regional airliners. Universal Hydrogen says it expects its converted Dash-8 to be certified and in commercial passenger service starting in 2025.

The FAA approval clears the way for the first flight of the Dash 8-300 flying testbed which will take place at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The aircraft will be by far the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered airplane to take to the skies, and second as a hydrogen-powered aircraft only to the Soviet flight test in 1988 of a Tupolev Tu-155 airliner with one of its jet engines converted to burn hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen unveiled in December 2022 first operational tests of its modular hydrogen delivery system at its engineering center in Toulouse, France. Those tests demonstrated a scalable approach to hydrogen delivery to airports and into the aircraft using a modular capsule technology. This eliminates the need for new infrastructure, with any airport capable of handling cargo being hydrogen-ready. It also eliminates transfer losses and speeds up hydrogen fueling operations.

"We are simultaneously providing a pragmatic, near-term solution for hydrogen infrastructure and delivery, as well as for converting existing passenger aircraft to use this lightweight, safe, and true-zero-emissions fuel," said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. "Today’s milestones are essential, important steps to putting the industry on a trajectory to meet Paris Agreement obligations. The only alternative is curtailing aviation traffic growth to curb emissions."

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Jamie Whitney

Jamie Whitney joined the staff of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Intelligent Aerospace. He brings seven years of print newspaper experience to the aerospace and defense electronics industry.

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