Airlines operating the Dash-8, one of the world’s most prolific mid-sized turboprop aircraft models, will soon be able to have them retrofitted to run on hydrogen-electric power.
Aviation powertrain specialist ZeroAvia and the Dash 8-400’s manufacturer De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a line-fit and retrofit program for De Havilland Canada’s aircraft models, using hydrogen-electric propulsion in both new and in-service aircraft.
The two companies expect their ZA2000 powertrain to fly aircraft with passenger capacity from 40 to 80, and with a potential range in excess of 1300km – a little more than the distance between Adelaide and Sydney – by 2026.
There are more than 625 Dash 8-400s operating worldwide and the model has logged more than 11 million flight hours and 550 million passengers. As of May this year, QantasLink operates 31 of them through subsidiary Sunstate Airlines.
Dave Riggs, chief transformation officer at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, said the company has a strong belief in hydrogen-electric technology as a viable solution for de-carbonising aviation. “We are extremely pleased to be collaborating with ZeroAvia in developing climate-friendly propulsion as an option for our customers around the globe.”
As part of the MOU, De Havilland Canada will have the option to buy 50 ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric engines. But first, they have to develop an approved schedule of technical requirements for original fitting and retrofitting the technology to meet regulatory certification. ZeroAvia will develop a flight demonstrator model to test and demonstrate the operational and commercial potential of the engine.
The company will fly a 19-seat aircraft using its ZA600 powertrain during the coming weeks in a hybrid configuration – powered by one conventional and one hydrogen-electric engine – before flying the same aircraft using only hydrogen-electric engines next year, building up to certification by 2024.
This process will help identify a suitable existing route using the aircraft, with the aim to introduce hydrogen-electric planes into service within the next five years.
Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia, said De Havilland Canada has made significant strides on emission reductions and shown a big commitment to greener aviation. “The next step is to go to true zero-emission using hydrogen-electric engines. Partnering with De Havilland Canada puts ZeroAvia on a defined pathway to line-fitting into new airframes and signals OEM appetite to make the switch to certified, zero-emission propulsion as soon as possible.”
ZeroAvia is a leader in zero-emission aviation, focused on hydrogen-electric aviation solutions to address a variety of markets, initially targeting 800km range in 10-20 and 40-80 seat aircraft used for commercial passenger transport, cargo, agriculture, and more. Based in the UK and the US, ZeroAvia has already secured experimental certificates for two prototype aircraft from the CAA and FAA, passed significant flight test milestones, and is on track for initial commercial operations of its technology in 2024.
In October, ZeroAvia announced a development collaboration with Alaska Air Group, the parent of Alaska Airlines, for a hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of flying 76-seat regional aircraft in excess of 500 nautical miles, starting with initial deployment into a full-size Dash 8-400 aircraft.