Commercial, Sourcing Renewables - March 3, 2023
Lightning McClean Flies Using Hydrogen
Lightning McClean, a 40-passenger regional airliner using hydrogen fuel cell propulsion, flew for 15 minutes at Grant County International Airport (KMWH).
The flight was conducted by Unversal Hydrogen Co. under a FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate and was the first in a two-year flight test campaign expected to culminate in 2025 with entry into passenger service of ATR 72 regional aircraft converted to run on hydrogen.
Representatives from Connect Airlines and Amelia, the US and European launch customers for the hydrogen airplanes, witnessed the flight.
The company has 247 aircraft conversions from 16 customers worldwide, totaling over $1 billion in conversions backlog and over $2 billion in fuel services.
“Today will go down in the history books as the true start to the decarbonization of the global airline industry and we at Connect Airlines are extremely proud of the role that we, as the first US operator, will play in leading the way with Universal Hydrogen,” said John Thomas, CEO of Connect Airlines in a statement. “We have committed to being North America’s first zero-emission airline and this historic flight, taking hydrogen, which can be made with nothing but sunshine and emitting only water, is a key milestone on our journey.”
Connect, which will begin regional turboprop service this spring, has placed a first-position US order with Universal Hydrogen to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains with purchase rights for 25 additional aircraft conversions. Deliveries will start in 2025.
The test flight comes on the back of successful demonstrations in December 2022 of Universal Hydrogen’s modular hydrogen logistics system conducted at the company’s engineering center in Toulouse, France.
The company is backed by GE Aviation, Airbus Ventures, Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Ventures, and American Airlines, as well as several green hydrogen producers and top-tier financial investors.