Airbus flightlabClick image to enlarge

Airbus is teaming up with engine maker CFM International to build a demonstrator for testing propulsion technology for future hydrogen-powered airplanes.

The hydrogen demonstration program is expected to take flight “around the middle of this decade”, according to Airbus. The testing of the direct combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen is in preparation for entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft by 2035.

The demonstration will use a A380 flying testbed equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities in France and Germany. Airbus will also define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, oversee flight testing, and provide the A380 platform to test the hydrogen combustion engine in cruise phase. 

CFM International (CFM) will modify the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan to run on hydrogen. The engine, which is assembled in the US, 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 the flying testbed to allow engine emissions, including contrails, to be monitored separately from those of the engines powering the aircraft. CFM will execute an extensive ground test program ahead of the A380 flight test.

“This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020,” said Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer. “By leveraging the expertise of American and European engine manufacturers to make progress on hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making zero-emission flight a reality.”

Both companies are looking achieve aviation industry net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by developing and testing the technology necessary to make zero emissions aircraft a reality within the timeline defined.

CFM International is a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.

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