Universal Hydrogen’s 40-passenger hydrogen electric plane completes maiden flight [Video]

Mere weeks after achieving experimental airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Universal Hydrogen has successfully taken its 40-passenger regional hydrogen electric plane to the skies. The aircraft took off from Washington state this morning and ascended to an altitude of 3,500 mean sea level (MSL) before safely landing, as you can see in the video below.

Universal Hydrogen Co. is a Southern California-based aviation company founded in 2020 by engineers with the mission of bringing zero-emission hydrogen electric-powered aviation to fruition.

In early February, we covered new milestones achieved using its Dash-300 flying test bed. The aircraft has the capability to eventually transport over 40 passengers using hydrogen fuel cells and electric powertrains and is promised to eventually become the largest of its kind to ever take to the skies.

The runway to today’s latest milestone began with the FAA experimental certification of the Dash-300, giving Universal Hydrogen permission to take off.

Check out the largest hydrogen electric plane to ever fly

Universal Hydrogen is celebrating today following the first successful flight of the hydrogen electric plane this morning, which took off in Grant County, Washington, at 8:41 a.m. PST and flew for 15 minutes.

For this initial flight, one of the airplane’s engines was replaced with Universal Hydrogen’s fuel cell-electric powertrain. The other standard engine remained to ensure the safety of the plane and its pilot, former US Air Force test pilot Alex Kroll. Kroll spoke to the confidence achieved during flight:

During the second circuit over the airport, we were comfortable with the performance of the hydrogen powertrain, so we were able to throttle back the fossil fuel turbine engine to demonstrate cruise principally on hydrogen power. The airplane handled beautifully, and the noise and vibrations from the fuel cell powertrain are significantly lower than from the conventional turbine engine.

Representatives from Connect Airlines were in attendance as the hydrogen electric plane took off. Connect has secured the first US order to convert 75 ATR 72-600 planes to Universal Hydrogen powertrains with the purchase rights for 25 more. Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas also spoke:

Today will go down in the history books as the true start to the decarbonization of the global airline industry and we at Connect Airlines are extremely proud of the role that we, as the first US operator, will play in leading the way with Universal Hydrogen. We have committed to being North America’s first zero-emission airline and this historic flight, taking hydrogen, which can be made with nothing but sunshine and emitting only water, is a key milestone on our journey.

With the first successful flight complete, Universal Hydrogen kicks off a two-year testing program that is expected to enable full certification for hydrogen electric passenger flights using the aforementioned ATR 72 planes by 2025.

The flight also marks the Dash-300 flying test bed as the largest hydrogen electric plane to take flight, paving the way for more hydrogen electric conversions of existing aircraft. Universal Hydrogen cofounder and CEO Paul Eremenko elaborated:

Our business model resolves the chicken-and-egg problem between hydrogen airplanes and hydrogen infrastructure by developing both in parallel and with a uniquely low-cost approach. The airplanes are converted to hydrogen using an aftermarket retrofit conversion kit, tackling the existing fleet rather than developing a brand new airplane. And hydrogen fueling uses modular capsules compatible with existing freight networks and airport cargo handling equipment, making every airport in the world hydrogen-ready.

You can see the hydrogen electric plane takeoff and land in the videos below.

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