The UK’s Birmingham Airport has joined ZeroAvia’s campaign to establish the infrastructure to support hydrogen-powered regional airline flights. A partnership announced on February 20 will build on similar work being conducted with Scottish airport group AGS and with Rotterdam The Hague Airport in the Netherlands.
Birmingham Airport has allocated land to be used to establish hydrogen refueling infrastructure and conduct trial operations. The airport, which is in the central Midlands region of England, wants to be a hub for short-haul net zero carbon flights across the UK by the middle of this decade.
ZeroAvia aims to have its hydrogen fuel cell-based propulsion system approved to convert existing regional aircraft by 2025. It says that a 10- to 19-passenger aircraft equipped with its 600-kilowatt ZA600 powertrain could operate on sectors of up to 250 nm by then. From Birmingham, that could potentially support services to cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast.
The company—which on January 19 achieved a first flight in the UK with a Dornier 228 twin turboprop equipped as a technology demonstrator—says that it plans to announce the first aircraft type to be converted for commercial use in the coming months. In the longer term, it says, it is working on plans for a more powerful 2.5-megawatt propulsion system that would allow an 80-seater aircraft to fly up to 700 nautical miles by 2027. Ground testing for this system is due to start in 2023.
Under the carbon roadmap that it published in 2022, Birmingham Airport is working to achieve net zero status by 2033. “It can be a central hub in a green flight network in the UK, given that any domestic mainland destination will be reachable from the airport using our first systems in 2025,” said ZeroAvia infrastructure vice president Arnab Chatterjee. “Given the commitments of the Jet Zero strategy on domestic aviation, it is fantastic to engage with forward-thinking airports that want to be early innovators and developers to deliver the vision of bringing truly clean, quiet, and pollution-free flights.”