Germany-based aviation company H2FLY has successfully completed the world’s first piloted flight of an electric aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen.
The company’s piloted HY4 demonstrator aircraft took off from Maribor, Slovenia, and saw safe and efficient operation throughout multiple flight tests. It carried out four test flights, including one that lasted more than three hours, using only the futuristic emissions-free fuel, marking a significant step forward for sustainable air travel.
During the test flights, the aircraft was fitted with a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system and cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen that powered the aircraft. The company says the result of the flights showed that using liquid hydrogen in place of gaseous hydrogen can double the maximum range of the HY4 aircraft, taking it from 466 miles (750 km) to some 932 miles (1,500 km).
Compared with pressurized gaseous hydrogen storage, the use of liquified, cryogenic hydrogen enables significantly lower tank weights and volume. This means you can carry more onboard to increase range and improve payload.
“This achievement marks a watershed moment in the use of hydrogen to power aircraft. Together with our partners, we have demonstrated the viability of liquid hydrogen to support medium and long-range emissions-free flight,” said Professor Josef Kallo, co-founder of H2FLY, in a statement.
The successful flights are the culmination of Project HEAVEN; H2FLY will now focus on the path to commercialization. “We are now looking ahead to scaling up our technology for regional aircraft and other applications, beginning the critical mission of decarbonizing commercial aviation,” Kallo added.
The HY4 aircraft can fly at a cruising speed of 90 mph (145 km/h), a maximum speed of approximately 124 mph (200 km/h), and a range of up to (932 miles) 1,500 km, depending on the speed, load and altitude parameters.
In April 2022, the HY4 set a new world record for hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft, flying at an altitude of 7,230 feet. The company is also working on its new H2F-175 fuel cell systems, which will provide their full power range in flight altitudes of up to 27,000 feet (8,200 meters) – high enough to enable commercial hydrogen-electric aircraft.
The four-seat HY4 is not the only aircraft H2FLY has on the horizon. The company has partnered with Deutsche Aircraft to design a larger 40-seat regional aircraft that can travel up to around 1,850 km (1,150 miles) using the same liquid hydrogen.