Hydrogen-Fueled Aircraft Makes Successful First Flight
The skies of Central Washington will continue to serve as a test bed for a company looking to reduce the aviation industry's carbon footprint.
A small passenger plane, nicknamed Lightning McClean, departed Moses Lake Friday and flew for 15 minutes as the first of its kind to run on hydrogen fuel cell propulsion.
Alex Kroll, an experienced former U.S. Air Force test pilot and the Universal Hydrogen's chief test pilot, led the maiden voyage of the modified Dash-8 aircraft. He says the engines are quieter than those on planes filled with jet fuel.
"This is hydrogen flowing into fuel cells that produce electricity that runs an electric motor," Kroll said. "Like electric cars or battery hybrid or battery electric, this (plane) doesn't have any batteries on it. It's just the flow of hydrogen, mixing with air, produces the electricity."
The test flight returned to Grant County International Airport after reaching an altitude of 3,500 feet. And with the plane's emissions taking the form of only water, Kroll sees hydrogen run planes as the future of eco-friendly aviation.
"You're not worried about spilling jet fuel around the airport. It really just cleans up the overall local environment. Around airfields, it makes it more suitable for people to live and not have to worry about getting sick or living under a flight path." Kroll said.
Universal Hydrogen is targeting 2025 for passengers to fly aboard the hydrogen run plane. The California company plans to continue test flights and research in the Moses Lake area.
"I definitely have to call out the team for sure. They bled and sweat and cried over this project for two years. They really did a great job with a great team of professionals. And I was just excited to get involved and work with people that were so knowledgeable on this system and very safety focused going into testing." Kroll said.
First of its kind plane to run on hydrogen