Cranfield Uni helps ZeroAvia conduct world's first hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft flight

Posted on 25 September, 2020 by Advance 

Cranfield University supported ZeroAvia in achieving the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered flight of a commercial-grade aircraft, which took place yesterday at the company’s R&D facility at the University-owned Cranfield Airport.

Image courtesy Cranfield University

The Piper M-class six-seat plane completed taxi, takeoff, a full pattern circuit, before landing back at the airport. The flight was watched by the Aviation Minister, Robert Courts.

Commenting on the achievement by ZeroAvia, Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, said: “This is a momentous day for the aerospace and the aviation industry. Arguably, this is as a big a moment in aerospace as any in the last 75 years, comparable with the first flight of the jet engine.

“Thanks to ZeroAvia, it is fantastic to see the UK leading the world in moves to zero-emission aviation and this could be the start of the UK leading the world in a new generation of hydrogen aircraft. We are tremendously proud that ZeroAvia has chosen to develop their technology at our global research airport and we look forward to continuing to support their efforts.”

Rob Abbott, Director of Aviation Operations at Cranfield University, said: “All of us at Cranfield Airport are proud to have supported the world’s first hydrogen powered commercial-grade aircraft flight by ZeroAvia. This marks another momentous occasion for the airport and demonstrates further our commitment to innovation.”

In December 2018, Cranfield Airport became the first airport in the UK to have an operational digital control tower.

Last year ZeroAvia received a £2.7 million (US$3.3m) grant from the UK Government to support in the development of the principal technology to enable practical, zero emission aviation in commercial aircraft - part of the ATI programme, supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK - to fund ZeroAvia's HyFlyer project to demonstrate principal technology readiness for a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The Government's grant was matched by Project HyFlyer participants, making the scope of the project in excess of £5 million (US$6.2m).

In June this year, ZeroAvia also conducted the first ever electric-powered flight of a commercial-scale aircraft carried out in the UK from its base at Cranfield Airport.

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) assisted with integrating ZeroAvia's powertrain into the Piper airframe and hosted the ZeroAvia team at their hangar facilities. With its expertise in airframe integration and modification, as well as whole aircraft design, CAeS brings the best of the UK aerospace industry into this collaboration.