Universal Hydrogen flight test campaign kicks off

Universal Hydrogen began its flight test campaign for its regional powertrain this week. It also notched up its 250th order. 

The first flight of the campaign lasted approximately 20mins reaching 5,000ft MSL (mean sea level) before returning for several passes with the conventional engine throttled back and the hydrogen powertrain at full power. Universal said the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain was operated at maximum power during takeoff and operated throughout the flight.

It marks the beginning of a two-year flight test campaign that will first look at improving performance of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain including the introduction of new hardware, including a new aviation-grade turbo-compressor that will allow flights up to 25,000ft MSL, the operating ceiling of the Dash 8 test aircraft.

Angelina Galiteva, CEO of Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems, developers of a hydrogen hub which is partnering with Universal Hydrogen, said: “It’s truly exciting to see Universal Hydrogen’s zero emission plane flying over California’s skies. It’s a great example of how California based companies like Universal Hydrogen are working to alleviate the impacts of climate change and improve local air quality all while bringing tangible community benefits like good paying jobs and technological innovation to California. We look forward to partnering with Universal Hydrogen, as part of the ARCHES hydrogen hub, to make zero emission flight a commercial reality for everyone.”

The test programme will also introduce Universal Hydrogen’s patented modular liquid hydrogen fuel storage system to the combination of technologies. It will then begin certification testing, the firm reached a milestone recently with the FAA’s issuance of the G-1 issue paper, which details the certification basis for hydrogen-powered commercial passenger aircraft.

Universal settled on the Mojave Air & Space Port for its aircraft and flight test base to increase its presence in California, where it already has its Hawthorne-based headquarters. Tim Reid, general manager at Mojave Air & Space Port, said: “We are excited to work with Universal Hydrogen to pave the way to reducing aircraft emissions using a sustainable, green, and increasingly available fuel — hydrogen. Their innovative technology, paired with the use of existing regional aircraft, will revolutionise the industry, leading to a systematic, affordable, and rapid transition to zero-emission transportation.”

An order from an unnamed customer this week pushed the firm’s total order book for its regional product to 250 aircraft.

Universal said it has been taking orders for regional aircraft conversion kits that replace the existing kerosene-burning gas turbines regional aircraft capable for carrying 50-60 passengers (starting with the ATR 72) with hydrogen fuel cells and an electric motor. 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. 

The firm said its order book is in the form of customer letters of intent, with approximately half the orders including customer deposits or cancellation penalties. Universal is currently solidifying agreements with its launch customers, including securing firm hydrogen off-take agreements and guaranteed hydrogen pricing.

Rod Williams, chief commercial officer, Universal Hydrogen, said: “This symbolic milestone places our order book for aircraft conversion well north of $1bn, with nearly half the orders including deposits or cancellation penalties. This also translates to over $2bn in fuel services revenue over our first ten years of operation.”

Social Messaging