UK government unveils commercial aircraft concept fueled by liquid hydrogen

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The UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) has today (Dec 6) unveiled a new concept for a midsize aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen, capable of flying 279 passengers halfway around the world without refueling.

Backed by UK government funding, the FlyZero project was announced ahead of the fourth meeting of the Jet Zero Council, which is chaired by Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary.

FlyZero showcases the huge potential of liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft as the UK drives for a cleaner and greener air travel future and builds on progress already achieved by the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government with the aim of delivering zero-emission transatlantic flight within a generation.

The council will today meet for the fourth time, ahead of International Civil Aviation Day on December 7.

Shapps said, “As we build back greener, it’s crucial that we place sustainability at the heart of the aviation industry’s recovery from Covid-19. This pioneering design for a liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft, led by a British organization, brings us one step closer to a future where people can continue to travel and connect, but without the carbon footprint.

“I will continue to work closely with the Jet Zero Council to support the UK’s world-leading research in this sector, which will create green jobs, help us meet our ambitious net zero targets and lead the global transition to net zero aviation.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business secretary, said, “These designs could define the future of aerospace and aviation. By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon-free flight could be possible, with hydrogen a front runner to replace conventional fossil fuels.

“Fueling planes sustainably will enable the public to travel as we do now, but in a way that doesn’t damage the planet. It will not only help us to end our contribution to climate change, but also represents a huge industrial opportunity for the UK.”

Emma Gilthorpe, CEO of the Jet Zero Council, said, “The Aerospace Technology Institute’s pioneering research highlights the potential for hydrogen in realizing zero-carbon global connectivity. This ground-breaking green technology looks set to play a critical role in decarbonizing flight and through the work of the Jet Zero Council, the UK aviation sector is exploring all avenues to ensure we protect the benefits of flying for future generations, while cutting the carbon cost.”

Chris Gear, project director, FlyZero, said, “At a time of global focus on tackling climate change our midsize concept sets out a truly revolutionary vision for the future of global air travel keeping families, businesses and nations connected without the carbon footprint.

“This new dawn for aviation brings with it real opportunities for the UK aerospace sector to secure market share, highly skilled jobs and inward investment while helping to meet the UK’s commitments to fight climate change.”

Another technology with the potential to decarbonize flying is sustainable aviation fuel, a low-carbon fuel made from waste materials. Earlier this year, the UK government set out its ambition to become a world-leader in the production of sustainable aviation fuel, launching the £15m (US$20m) Green Fuel, Green Skies competition to support the early development of trailblazing UK facilities working to turn everyday waste into jet fuel. The eight shortlisted winners will receive a share of the £15m (US$20m) in funding.

Today’s announcement comes shortly after the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, which saw ambitious new international pledges to decarbonize transportation, including the agreement by 24 countries – representing around half of global aviation emissions – to work together to achieve a new aviation decarbonization goal.

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Dan originally joined Passenger Terminal World in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest aviation news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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