FAA Grants Universal Hydrogen Approval To Test Fuel-Cell-Powered Aircraft

The experimental airworthiness certificate clears the way for hydrogen-fueled airliner’s first flight.

Universal Hydrogen mounted a fuel cell powertrain in one of the engine nacelles of its Dash 8 testbed. [Courtesy: Universal Hydrogen]

Universal Hydrogen, a developer of hydrogen fuel cell powertrains for aircraft, said it received an airworthiness certificate in the experimental category from the FAA that clears the company to conduct the first flight of its hydrogen-powered test aircraft.

The company replaced one of the engines on its de Havilland Dash 8-300 twin turboprop airliner with a hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain. The flying testbed recently completed taxi testing to evaluate its ground handling qualities and the performance of its fuel-cell electric powertrain at low power settings and airspeeds, the company said.

The power system in the Dash 8 is similar to a conversion kit that Universal makes for the ATR 72-600 regional airliner. The company said it expects the kits to be “certified and in commercial passenger service starting in 2025.” The Dash 8 is slated to make its first flight soon, during the first quarter of this year, at Grant County International Airport (KMWH) in Moses Lake, Washington.

Late last year Universal tested a modular hydrogen delivery system at its engineering center in Toulouse, France. The system is designed to eliminate the need for complex and expensive new fueling infrastructure to handle the zero-emission fuel.

“We are simultaneously providing a pragmatic, near-term solution for hydrogen infrastructure and delivery, as well as for converting existing passenger aircraft to use this lightweight, safe, and true-zero-emissions fuel,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “Today’s milestones are essential, important steps to putting the industry on a trajectory to meet Paris Agreement obligations. The only alternative is curtailing aviation traffic growth to curb emissions,” he said.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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