Airbus to Create Test Plane that Runs on Hydrogen by 2026

Although most of the focus on the global transportation sector’s carbon output is placed on roads — and rightly so — air travel is also a significant and growing source of planet-warming emissions. Engineers hoping to reduce the industry’s environmental impact have primarily focused on cleaner jet fuels since electric systems can currently only fly so far, but one of the world’s aerospace giants is working on another option. Airbus, long a proponent of hydrogen as a possible aviation fuel, announced a new agreement with CFM International — the jet engine joint venture owned by GE and Safran — to develop a test plane that runs on hydrogen by the middle of the decade. Under the pact, CFM will modify the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan engine to run on hydrogen, which burns hotter than conventional jet fuel. The test engine, selected because of its size, advanced machinery, and fuel flow, will be mounted along the rear fuselage of an Airbus A380 jetliner equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks. Some analysts are skeptical of hydrogen as a viable jet fuel because of its extensive storage requirements — which would limit the number of passengers or cargo that those planes could carry. After a ground testing program, a flight test will aim to monitor the hydrogen engine’s emissions, as the jet cruises, separately from the engines powering the aircraft. The company has reportedly targeted 2026 for those flights. 

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