The world’s biggest plane maker, Airbus, and the 50/50 joint company between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines, CFM International (CFM) have collaborated to test and pioneer hydrogen combustion technology.
The two entities aim to test a direct combustion engine fueled by hydrogen in preparation for a zero-emission aircraft to enter into service by 2035.
CFM will modify the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan to run on hydrogen. The engine, which is assembled in the US, was selected because of its physical size, advanced turbomachinery, and fuel flow capability. It will be mounted along the rear fuselage of the flying testbed to allow engine emissions, including contrails, to be monitored separately from those of the engines powering the aircraft. CFM will execute an extensive ground test program ahead of the A380 flight test.
The demonstration will use an A380 flying testbed equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities in France and Germany. Airbus will define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, oversee flight testing and provide the A380 platform to test the hydrogen combustion engine in the cruise phase.
“Hydrogen combustion capability is one of the foundational technologies we are developing and maturing as part of the CFM RISE Program. Bringing together the collective capabilities and experience of CFM, our parent companies, and Airbus, we really do have the dream team in place to successfully demonstrate a hydrogen propulsion system,” said Mr. Gaël Méheust, President & CEO of CFM.
“This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020. By leveraging the expertise of American and European engine manufacturers to make progress on hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making the zero-emission flight.”
CFM shares Airbus’ ambition of fulfilling the promise they made in signing the Air Transport Action Group goal in October 2021 to attain aviation industry net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by developing and testing the technology necessary to make a zero-emission aircraft a reality within the ambitious timeline defined.