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WATCH: First taxi tests after FAA grants experimental airworthiness certificate for a hydrogen-powered aircraft

Universal Hydrogen Co. was granted a special airworthiness certificate by the FAA, in the experimental category. This certificate allows the company to continue with the first flight of its hydrogen-powered regional aircraft.With the certificate granted, Universal Hydrogen successfully completed its first taxi tests of the aircraft, releasing a video of the event. The tests will evaluate the ground handling qualities of the aircraft and the performance of the fuel-cell electric powertrain at a lower power setting and its airspeeds. The company was founded in 2020 and its goal is to make hydrogen aviation a reality and put the industry on a "trajectory to meet Paris Agreement obligations." A megawatt-class hydrogen fuel cell powertrain is installed in one of the nacelles of the Dash 8-300 flying testbed. The powertrain is an arrangement that is similar to the company's first product, a conversion kit for ATR 72-600 regional airliners. The first product is expected to be certified and in commercial passenger service beginning in 2025. The powertrain does not use a hybrid battery architecture, instead, all the power is transmitted directly from the fuel cell to the electric motor. This innovation significantly lowers the weight and lifecycle cost of the model. With FAA approval, the Dash 8-300 full maiden flight will take place at Grant County International Airport (MWH) in Moses Lake, Washington. This will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered airplane to fly and only the second hydrogen-powered aircraft since the Soviet flight test of a Tupolev Tu-155 airliner with a jet engine converted to burn hydrogen that took place in 1988. Universal Hydrogen first unveiled operational tests of a modular hydrogen delivery system in December 2022. The testing took place at its engineering center in Toulouse, France, and was demonstrative of a logical and highly scalable approach to hydrogen delivery to airports and aircraft, using modular capsule technology. The modular technology eliminates the need for expensive new infrastructure and allows any airport to handle cargo and be hydrogen ready. This technology also eliminates transfer losses and speeds up hydrogen-fueling operations, which is a difficulty with zero-emissions fuel. "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," Co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen Paul Eremenko said. "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."RELATED STORIES:Rolls-Royce tests mtu engine with pure hydrogen fuelRolls-Royce and easyJet successfully test hydrogen turbo-prop engine With the industry under fire in the global climate discussion, many companies are expanding the focus on sustainable fuels and emission reductions in aircraft and engine technology. Rolls-Royce has successfully tested a hydrogen turbo-prop engine and a mtu engine on pure hydrogen fuel. Tests carried out on the turbo-prop engine in November were a major step in the decarbonization strategies for Rolls-Royce and its partner on the project, easyJet. Another milestone was reached in January when the company conducted successful tests on a 12-cylinder gas variant of the mtu Series 4000 L64 engine, running it on 100 percent hydrogen fuel. ZeroAvia has also spent years working on hydrogen technologies, developing a hydrogen-electric and zero-emission power train for aircraft like the Cessna Grand Caravan. ZeroAvia flew a Dornier 228, its largest aircraft yet, with a hydrogen-powered engine on Jan. 19, 2023.RELATED STORIES:WATCH: ZeroAvia flies Dornier 228 with hydrogen-powered engineZeroAvia to develop hydrogen-electric powertrain for the Cessna Grand Caravan Aircraft technologies are rapidly changing due to an industry-wide goal to have net-zero emissions by 2050. Universal Hydrogen's latest accomplishment is only the beginning, in a long-term plan for green aviation.
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