Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Pipistrel launches 19-passenger near-zero-emission aircraft concept

Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel has completed research work on the Miniliner hydrogen passenger aircraft project, which is planned to be used on short-haul routes. According to the company, the work was carried out under the EU-funded UNIFIER19 project, in which the Polytechnic University of Milan and the Delft Technical University also took part.

The Miniliner concept will deliver a leading solution for future small regional aircraft that will enable clean, fast, and cost-effective transportation. It is a twin-engine, zero-emission aircraft that will accommodate 19 passengers. It will be sufficient for short, even unpaved runways of shorter than 1,000 m and will be able to use grass runways common to small aerodromes. These airplanes, therefore, have the potential to disrupt aerial mobility, connecting currently unserved populations at 200 to 1,000 km range but also catering for microfeeder services from small airports to large hubs.

Pipistrel’s Miniliners allow for a Direct Operating Cost (DOC) reduction of 30 to 40% on a per-seat metric relative to today’s solutions, even with the introduction of new zero-emission propulsion, real-time emissions monitoring, and advanced flight control automation technologies. The latter will, at the same time, facilitate single-pilot operations.

Although it is still a conceptual design that was devised within the framework of the European UNIFIER19 project, the manufacturer is convinced that 2028-2030 as an EIS (Entry into Service) can be called realistic. To overcome current challenges in the regulatory, operational, and technological domains, Pipistrel is engaging with Europe’s Clean Aviation, SESAR, and EASA, as well as setting up multiple industry partnering initiatives.

Microfeeder flights will leverage advanced air traffic control systems to safely integrate the miniliners into the busy airspaces around large airports. With airports becoming zero-emission multimodal nodes, as directed by EC Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, hydrogen powered zero-emission miniliners are every day closer to reality and will Springboard the developments to bring Clean Aviation closer to communities.