Flight Testing of a Hydrogen-Fueled Aircraft Engine by the mid-2020s
March 4, 2022
The GCC is home to some of the world’s largest and most innovative airlines, many of which are already taking action to address climate change and prepare for the global aviation industry’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050.
That goal is a heavy lift, given that aviation is more difficult to decarbonize than other segments of the transportation industry, such as automobiles, buses, and even trucks.
It will take a range of technologies for aviation to achieve this goa according to senior executives with GE Aviation, Emirates and Etihad, who participated in the GE-hosted Spotlight Tomorrow event held at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
One of those technologies is hydrogen-fueled aircraft engines, a solution getting a big boost from Airbus and CFM International, a 50/50 joint company between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines.
The companies recently announced a partnership agreement to collaborate on a hydrogen demonstration program that would seek to begin test flights of a direct combustion engine fueled by hydrogen around the mid-2020s.
The project is in preparation for entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft by 2035.
CFM will modify the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan to run on hydrogen. The engine was selected for this program because of its physical size, advanced turbo machinery, and fuel flow capability.
It will be mounted along the rear fuselage of an A380 flying testbed aircraft, which will be specially equipped with liquid-hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities.
In this configuration, the hydrogen engine emissions, including contrails, can be monitored separately from those of the four conventional engines powering the aircraft. CFM will execute an extensive ground test program ahead of the A380 flight test.
Airbus will define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, oversee flight testing, and provide the A380 platform to test the hydrogen combustion engine in cruise phase.
“Hydrogen combustion capability is one of the foundational technologies we are developing and maturing as part of the CFM RISE Program,” said Gaël Méheust, president & CEO of CFM.
The RISE program goals include reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 20% compared to today’s most efficient engines, using traditional jet fuel. CFM is also working to as ensuring 100% compatibility with alternative energy sources such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and hydrogen. The use of these alternate fuels would provide CO2 reduction benefits well above the 20% goal for the RISE Program.