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By Cathy Hansen
contributing writer 

Universal Hydrogen lands at Mojave Air & Space Port for flight test

Short Flights

 

July 8, 2023

Universal Hydrogen.

Dash-8 test aircraft "Lightning McClean."

On June 26, Universal Hydrogen completed a ferry flight of its hydrogen fuel cell-powered turboprop aircraft to the Mojave Air & Space Port from Moses Lake, Washington, where it plans to build a substantial presence and continue its test flight efforts.

The Dash-8 test aircraft has been dubbed "Lightning McClean" and flew down the west coast with four stops across Oregon and California, covering a distance of over 800 nautical miles before landing at Mojave.

A few Mojave tenants were told in advance of the historic flight and were on hand to welcome the crew and aircraft to Mojave Air & Space Port.

In their press release Universal Hydrogen stated that they are making hydrogen-powered commercial flight a near-term reality. The company takes a flexible, scalable and capital-light approach to hydrogen logistics by transporting it in modular capsules over the existing freight network from green production sites directly to the airplane anywhere in the world. The company is targeting regional and narrow body/single aisle airplanes as the near-term and most impactful decarbonization opportunities. Universal Hydrogen is also working to certify a powertrain conversion kit to retrofit existing regional aircraft to fly on hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen will conduct additional test flights gearing up to its goal of commercial entry into service in late 2025. The hydrogen powertrain was fully utilized for each take off, and on the first three legs of the ferry it was throttled down after take off. On the last leg the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain was used for duration of the entire flight, accruing over 180 nautical miles, and a flight time of over one hour, which is the longest flight by a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to date.

According to the press release, Universal Hydrogen Company achieving true zero emission aviation with renewable hydrogen, has selected the Mojave Air & Space Port as its new flight test center, and also announced the successful ferry flight to Mojave of its Dash-8 modified 40-passenger regional airliner, powered on one side by a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain.

This move signals the next phase in its extensive flight testing regimen. Since its initial successful flight test on March 2, earlier this year, Universal Hydrogen has achieved four subsequent test flights, maintaining its planned trajectory for the two-year flight test campaign expected to culminate in 2025. During its second flight, the converted aircraft achieved a 30-minute flight at 170 knots of indicated airspeed (KIAS), ascending to 5,000 feet. Further strides were made in the third and fourth flight tests completed on June 12, where the aircraft reached altitudes of 10,000 feet.

"In our relentless pursuit to decarbonize aviation, moving our flight testing to Mojave brings us closer to our headquarters in Hawthorne, ensuring optimal coordination with the team," says Mark Cousin, CTO of Universal Hydrogen. "We extend our gratitude to Washington state and specifically Moses Lake for their invaluable support as we began our historic test flights with the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft. Our calculated testing strategy guarantees the safety of our converted aircraft, propelling us towards our goal to have it in service within the next two years."

As stated in the press release, Universal Hydrogen's global headquarters is in Hawthorne, California and moving the aircraft and flight test activities to Mojave represents a substantial increase in its presence in the state. The Mojave center consolidates test flight operations nearer to its headquarters, and also will allow the company to take advantage of a strong engineering talent pool in Mojave as well as nearby Los Angeles.

"Bringing Universal Hydrogen to the Mojave Air & Space Port is a big win for us and the local community," said Tim Reid, General Manager of Mojave. "With their research and development, Universal Hydrogen's technology will be a total game changer for zero emission flight within the next decade, meeting the environmental goals of California while advancing the industry with a new, sustainable energy source. We are extremely excited to have Universal Hydrogen testing their concept at the Space Port."

The press release stated, California is a leader in both renewable hydrogen production as well as sustainable aviation. The state has announced its participation in the US Department of Energy Hydrogen Hubs competition through the creation of the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Systems (ARCHES), of which Universal Hydrogen is a partner and sponsor, and the state has previously provided the company with a $5 million development grant through the California Office of Business Development (aka "GO-Biz"). The move of the company's test flight efforts to California is greeted with anticipation and excitement from California officials, who are acknowledging the forward-thinking approach of Universal Hydrogen in striving for the decarbonization of aviation and other heavy sectors.

"Universal Hydrogen is proving that true zero emission is achievable with renewable hydrogen even in a sector like aviation which is difficult to decarbonize," said Chair David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission. "Basing their test flight operations in Mojave will supercharge a site of significant aviation and space history, and create good-paying jobs for Californians as we ramp up our efforts to combat climate change."

"Universal Hydrogen expanding their footprint in California will help us achieve our ambitious targets on carbon reduction while bolstering our nation-leading, green economy," said Dee Dee Myers, GO-Biz Director and Senior Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom. "We welcome these types of innovative companies growing their presence here and look forward to watching their exciting progress in the coming years."

Mojave Air & Space Port is continuing to be the perfect place for flight test and the future of aerospace! It will be fun to watch this beautiful Dash-8 fly over and leave only water vapor in its wake.

 
 

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