Universal Hydrogen has started a two-year flight test campaign with its hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft at the Mojave Air & Space Port in California.
Universal Hydrogen’s Dash-8, which it has named Lightning McClean is the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft and the largest ever airplane to cruise principally on hydrogen.
The aircraft is testing the company’s liquid hydrogen-fuelled powertrain, which it intends to retrofit to existing fleets of -and integrate into new- regional aircraft of up to 60 seats.
The first flight of the test campaign lasted 20 minutes, during which time the flaps and landing gear were retracted. The aircraft reached 5,000ft before returning for several passes over the airport with the conventional engine throttled back and the hydrogen powertrain at full power to measure noise level reduction that fuel cell-electric propulsion is expected to deliver.
The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain was operated at maximum power during take-off and operated throughout the flight.
Universal Hydrogen has now achieved 10 test flights as it marches towards its goal of commercial entry into service in 2026.
The two-year flight test campaign will continue to optimize the performance of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain and will introduce new hardware, such as a new custom-developed turbocompressor that will enable flights of up to 25,000ft, the operating ceiling of the Dash 8 and a liquid hydrogen fuel storage system.
The test program will also commence certification testing with the FAA. The company was recently issued a G-1 paper by the FAA, which outlines a certification basis for hydrogen-powered commercial passenger aircraft.
Lightning McClean’s first flight was conducted in March this year, after which it was flown in June from Moses Lake, Washington State to Mojave, California. This flight demonstrated an expanded operating envelope for the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain.
Meanwhile, Universal Hydrogen announced that its latest order had moved its order total to 250 conversion kits for regional aircraft.
The kit also reconfigures the aircraft to accommodate Universal Hydrogen’s liquid hydrogen fuel modules and the orders include an agreement to supply hydrogen fuel services for the aircraft.