Can hydrogen save aviation fuel challenges? It has a way to go.

There are some things that electric power can not achieve, like lifting the 787. But that does not mean that large jets cannot get green or at least greener. Several fuel refineries and airlines are experimenting with Sustainable Aviation Fuels, known as SAFs. These fuels, which burn like the regular “Jet A” fuel, can be made from waste, such as spent cooking fat. Some companies, like Neste, use hydrogen to refine its SAF fuel.

Although aviation safety organizations allow commercial aircraft to use fuel containing 50 percent or less SAF, in demonstrations, existing jets have burned 100 percent SAF, “and the engines are very happy with that,” Ms. said. Simpson from Airbus.

But SAF can be seen as a stumbling block as larger aircraft have flown happily burning emission-free pure hydrogen. In 1957, a Martin B-57B operated part of a hydrogen-fueled flight. In 1988, a Soviet TU-155 aircraft flew on hydrogen fuel alone.

For Senator Spark Matsunaga, a Hawaiian Democrat who died in 1990, it was a missed opportunity – as significant as the Soviet Sputnik satellite that knocked the United States into space. “We have once again missed the boat,” he said, “and we can only hope that the next administration will be more interested in hydrogen than this one has been.”

Any mention of hydrogen planes means addressing the zeppelins in space. Although hydrogen has been used for ballooning since 1783, its aeronautical future was dampened on May 6, 1937, when the zeppelin Hindenburg burned very publicly in Lakehurst, NJ, killing 36. It is still debated whether the flames were immortalized on radio and in newsreels (and a Led Zeppelin album cover), was mainly caused by hydrogen or the flammable paint used on the fabric skin of the airship. Either way, the damage to hydrogen’s reputation is by today.

Recently, ZeroAvia experienced some bad news / good news when its hydrogen fuel cell powered Piper Malibu Mirage M350 crashed in April last year. The good news was that no one was injured, despite the aircraft losing a wing. Even better, with no fuel to leak and no hot engine to ignite it, there was no Hindenburg-like fire.

“The hydrogen system itself held up perfectly,” said Mr. Miftakhov. “The emergency crew said if it was a fossil fuel plane, it would have been a major fire.”

Leave a Comment