ZeroAvia welcomes successful zero-emission hydrogen aircraft testing

Image: ZeroAvia

The initial prototype ZA600 flight testing campaign at Cotswold Airport in the UK. A total of 10 successful flights took place, with a view to delivering the first zero-emission cross-country flight.

ZeroAvia, which completed the maiden flight of its largest hydrogen fuel cell aircraft in January this year, has used the six-month testing campaign to explore how its retrofitted engine performs across different parameters.

The campaign has seen the aircraft fly at 5,000 feet, perform an endurance test at 23 minutes, operate in temperature ranges from just above freezing to almost 30C, and reach the maximum allowable speed under the Permit to Fly issued by the CAA.

ZeroAvia confirmed that the fuel cell and electric propulsion system “performed at or above expectations”, with the hydrogen engine matching the power of a traditional engine.

“Zero-emission flight technologies are moving from promise to delivery and our amazing team is leading the way with this testing programme,” ZeroAvia’s chief executive Val Miftakhov said.

“We do not have to push the unappealing choices on passengers of paying more or flying less to deliver climate conscious air travel. We instead can adopt this technology quickly to reduce climate impact and air pollution.”

ZeroAvia’s Dornier 228 flight testing programme is part of the HyFlyer II Project, which is partly funded by the UK Government.

Minister for Industry & Economic Security Nusrat Ghani MP said: “ZeroAvia is making fantastic progress in pioneering zero-emission flight, and I want to congratulate them on another important step completed with their successful flight test campaign.

“I’m pleased that government support through the ATI Programme has helped ZeroAvia find innovative new ways to cut aviation emissions, which will help us deliver our Jet Zero Strategy and secure high-skilled green jobs in the UK.”

Virgin’s transatlantic flight

In related news, Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce have partnered on a successful SAF blend test on an engine, as part of a bid to deliver the world’s first 100% SAF flight travel across the Atlantic. The flight will take off from London Heathrow to New York on 28 November 2023, with SAFs to be tested on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Fuel suppliers Air bp and Virent will supply 60 tonnes of SAFs for testing and the flight itself. The SAF will be produced from a mix of Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK).

Commenting on the engine testing, Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Shai Weiss said: “The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation. Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way for our industry to decarbonise, but currently there’s not enough supply and without it and the radical collaboration required to produce it, we can’t meet our 2030 targets.

“We need UK government support to create a UK SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the UK to operate with 100% SAF – if we make it, we can fly it.”

Organisations researching and investing in SAFs point to the typical lifecycle emissions savings of more than 70%, compared to conventional fuels, as reasons for why it could be a crucial enabler of the net-zero transition.

However, research from the Royal Society has warned that there is “no clear or single net-zero alternative to jet fuel”. The research warns that any solution would face challenges in terms of the availability and accessibility of sustainable feedstock and that further lifecycle analysis of fuels is required to highlight how effective solutions would actually be.

The Royal Society states that meeting existing aviation demand of around 4,000 daily flights – although this is expected to increase over the coming years – with biofuels from energy crops would require around half of the UK’s existing agricultural land and almost 70% of the UK’s total land area.

In the current market, SAFs represent less than 0.1% of jet fuel volume and standards and regulations only allow for a 50% blend of SAFs in commercial flights.

Last year, Virgin Atlantic signed a deal with Neste and ExxonMobil to source 2.5 million litres of SAFs from renewable waste and residue raw materials, in a bid to use power 10% of its flights from SAFs by 2030.

Virgin Atlantic is pushing toward a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Virgin Atlantic has committed to reducing emissions by 15% per revenue ton kilometer (CO2/RTK) by 2026 through a continued fleet transformation and efficiency programme. By 2030, the company will aim to deliver a 15% net reduction in total carbon emissions, with 10% of all fuel sources from SAFs. By 2040, the company will aim to deliver a 40% net reduction in total emissions.

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