ZeroAvia, which has been pushing development of its hydrogen-electric engine as a zero-carbon retrofit for commuter-size planes, has gotten an OK from Britain's Civil Aviation Authority to put a 19-passenger test plane to flight tests.
CAA gave the company 'Part 21 approval,' meaning it's authorized to operate in regulated airspace, although not yet with passengers. The plane, a stock Dornier 228, will be tested with a standard engine on one wing and ZeroAvia's ZA600 hydrogen engine on the other.
The company previously did ground testing on the 228, as well as on a 6-seat prototype. When tests start in January, the plane will be the largest ever to fly on hydrogen-electric power. The company hopes testing and approval will move quickly enough to allow passenger service by 2025.
The development work has received support from British government research agencies as part of support for carbon-free aviation. The goal has been to reach 300 mile flights with 9 to 19 passengers, and to scale up by 2027 to 700-mile range with a 40-80 seat plane. Airlines have been sufficiently interested to pre-order 1500 engines to be delivered when testing is complete.