Airbus and CFM to demonstrate hydrogen combustion on an A380

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Airbus and CFM International are collaborating on the development of a hydrogen combustion demonstration programme that will take flight around the middle of this decade. 

hydrogen combustion
(Image: Airbus)

According to Airbus, the programme will ground and flight test a direct combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen, in preparation for entry-into-service by 2035.

The demonstration will use an A380 flying testbed equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities in France and Germany.

Airbus will also define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, oversee flight testing, and provide the A380 to test the hydrogen combustion engine in cruise phase. 

“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,” Sabine Klauke, Airbus chief technical officer said in a statement. “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 zero-emission flight a reality.”CFM International (CFM), an equal joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, will modify the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan to run on hydrogen.

The engine was chosen for this program because of its physical size, advanced turbo machinery, 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 the engines powering the aircraft. CFM will also conduct an extensive ground test program ahead of the A380 flight test.

“Hydrogen combustion capability is one of the foundational technologies we are developing and maturing as part of the CFM RISE Program,” said Gaël Méheust, president & CEO of CFM. “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.” CFM and Airbus are signatories to the Air Transport Action Group goal to achieve aviation industry net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.