Aviation H2 continues to progress its goal of having Australia’s first hydrogen-powered plane in the sky by mid-2023 with the company due to acquire test engines for modification in the next four to six weeks.
Speaking to Stockhead, director Dr Helmut Mayer says the company was in the process of acquiring two (or maybe three) test engines, which they will use a proof of concept for their method of converting jet planes to carbon-free fuel.
Its strategic partner and specialist charter flight operator FalconAir is currently going through the process of making sure those engines meet Aviation H2’s requirements.
“Once we have fully documented that, we will then make an offer on the engines and buy them,” Mayer says, adding that their lack of flight certification and the fact that they don’t have to be recertified provides a cost-effective solution to purchasing them.
“Then the people in the US who have the engines at the moment will bench-run them to give us a baseline performance for the engines, which we then use to calibrate our tests here in Australia.
“At the moment, we expect to get the engines in the next four to six weeks, and we will start testing fairly shortly after that.”
While the test engines will not be used for flight testing, they will be invaluable for the company to prove its technologies and that it is possible for liquid ammonia to continue burning.
However, before the company even gets around to modifying the test engines, it will embark on a newly introduced preliminary testing phase.
This will involve the construction of a tubular combustion chamber that will allow the company to control airflow and fuel. This will help the company fully understand the parameters that have to be in place on the engine to make sure the liquid ammonia-powered flame burns steadily.
This phase will allow Aviation H2 to make decisions about the fuel mix configuration – and other decisions – which it will then use to modify the test engines.
“Once we have test engines running happily, and we can demonstrate the full range of operation, then we will make the same modification on an existing aircraft and begin test flights,” Mayer notes.
Aviation H2’s aircraft of choice, the Dassault Falcon 50 business jet – a long-ranged international business charter jet aircraft – was selected for a multitude of reasons.
Not only do these aircraft have larger weight capacity, reducing the risk posed by weight challenges, they are also relatively common in Australia with partner Falcon Air being certified to maintain and operate them.
However, one of the main reasons is that the third engine of the Falcon 50 is located at the bottom of the plane’s back.
This provides easy access to the engine simply by opening the cowl, allowing the company to tinker and fine tune the setup without too much difficulty.
Falcon 50s are also capable of flying using just two engines, meaning that while Aviation H2 won’t be able to test the plane in the area surrounding Bankstown Airport, it can take off on the two regular engines and fly to where it will carry out the testing.
“At that point we will be able to test it during takeoff, during climb, at altitude, through a range of temperatures, and so on,” Dr Mayer says.
He added that being able to work out of Bankstown airport would help with the work needed to develop the technology, as it has the right infrastructure to carry out the modifications.
Bankstown also happens to be the base for Falcon Air, who are familiar with the plane and have all certifications in place, meaning that Aviation H2 only needs experimental permissions to operate the plane.
Once the test flight is successful in the middle of 2023, Aviation H2 will have a patentable method for modifying aircraft so they operate on carbon-free fuel. They will quickly seek to certify and commercialise this product via a planned public listing on a major exchange in Q4 of 2023.