ZeroAvia test aircraft for damaged hydrogen propulsion system during “non-airport landing”


ZeroAvia’s research and development aircraft for its hydrogen propulsion system made an “off-airport” landing according to the startup, the plane crashing just outside Cranfield airport. (Image: C / O @MEHarris on Twitter)

The six-seater Piper M-class hydrogen turboprop operated by ZeroAvia as a test bed for its hydrogen propulsion system was damaged during a non-airport landing on April 29, according to a May 1 press release on l accident published by the California based startup.

According to the statement, the plane made an “off-airport landing” near Cranfield Airport during a routine test flight, landing on its wheels before the left main landing gear and wing were taken. in the “rough terrain” where it landed. The two crew members on board were not injured.

“The flight followed the approved test route over the airport; the structural integrity of the ZeroAvia systems was maintained throughout the incident sequence and there was no no unintentional release of hydrogen or electricity and no fire, ”ZeroAvia said in the statement. After landing, the crew were able to protect the battery and safely release the hydrogen from the onboard tanks, in accordance with ZeroAvia safety protocol; no fluid leaks were observed at the time; and the logs complete data has been retained and will be used in our investigation. “

The Bedfordshire Fire Department tweeted this image of the damaged plane taken by one of its drones after landing outside the airport. (Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service)

ZeroAvia reported the incident to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and also tasked several of its engineers and board members to conduct an internal investigation into the causes of the landing outside the airport. The team will be led by Dominic Cheater, Airworthiness Manager for ZeroAvia, and was selected based on his status with the startup as being independent from the design and operation of the HyFlyer I program.

Saturday’s off-airport landing by ZeroAvia comes after several months of significant new investment in the development of their zero-emission powertrain. In March, the startup received a new funding round of $ 24.3 million, led by Horizon Ventures, which was joined by British Airways and several other clean energy investment groups.

This followed an announcement in December where $ 21.4 million in Series A funding was awarded to ZeroAvia by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Ecosystem Integrity Fund. In June 2020, ZeroAvia completed the UK’s first ever electrically powered commercial aircraft flight and followed that first commercial grade hydrogen powered aircraft flight using its Piper-class six-seat turboprop. M in September.

The program first began flight tests from Cranfield University Airport in 2019 as part of the HyFlyer Project, a UK government and industry funded program launched with the aim of demonstrating how small medium-range passenger planes can be carbon-free. ZeroAvia’s ultimate goal, using the Piper M-class as a demonstration aircraft, is to develop 19-passenger, zero-emission certifiable aircraft by 2023.

“This incident and the ensuing investigation will undoubtedly disrupt our 6-seat HyFlyer demo program which ended in the following weeks. However, we do not anticipate any negative impact on our HyFlyer 2 commercial program targeting 10 to 20 seat aircraft, or our large engine development program targeting planes over 50 seats, ”ZeroAvia said in the statement.

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