Airbus will use the A380 to test a hydrogen engine


(CNN) — Airbus has just taken another step towards launching the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035.

The French aircraft maker has announced plans to test hydrogen fuel technology using a modified version of one of its A380 jetliners, which were retired last year.

Airbus has partnered with CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, on the very important hydrogen demonstration program.

The aircraft manufacturer will use an “A380 flying test bed equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks” to test the propulsion technology of its future hydrogen aircraft.

“Flight Lab”

“Our ambition is to take this aircraft (A380) and add a section between the rear doors on the upper level,” says Glenn Llewellyn, vice president of zero-emission aircraft at Airbus, in a video posted on the YouTube channel of Airbus. Airbus. “This heel will have a hydrogen gas turbine at the end.”

He goes on to explain that the plane will be equipped with hydrogen storage and distribution, which will supply its engine with the chemical element.

According to Llewellyn, the purpose of the “flight lab” is to learn more about hydrogen propulsion systems under real-world conditions on the ground and in flight, thereby enabling Airbus to pursue its zero-emission aircraft projects in a little over a decade.

It is currently estimated that test flights will take place in 2026, assuming all goes as planned. The news comes more than a year after Airbus unveiled three hydrogen-powered concepts under the ZEROe banner.

A rendering of the A380 flight test platform, which will test hydrogen combustion technology.

Airbus

“This is the most significant step taken by Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen flight since unveiling our ZEROe concepts in September 2020,” Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer, said in a statement. .

“By leveraging the expertise of US and European engine manufacturers to advance hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making zero-emission flight a reality.”

Steal without guilt?

The global aviation industry has pledged to cut its emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2050.

A number of airlines are turning to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to help reduce the environmental impact of flying, with British Airways parent company IAG revealing plans to fuel 10% of its flights with SAF by 2030 and United Airlines completing its first successful flight with 100% sustainable fuel last year.

However, Airbus is hedging its bets on hydrogen, which can potentially reduce aviation carbon emissions by up to 50%, according to the aircraft manufacturer.

“I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft – has the potential to significantly reduce the climate impact of aviation,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus.

Meanwhile, aviation company ZeroAvia is developing a 19-seater plane that will operate hydrogen-electric commercial flights between London and Rotterdam from 2024.

CNN’s Paul Sillers also contributed to this report


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