There are two recent happenings concerning hydrogen planes, both of which are pretty exciting. First, the European Union is studying the development of a hypersonic hydrogen airplane that will be able to fly at speeds between Mach 4 to Mach 8, carry 300-passengers and fly at subsonic speeds when needed.
The Configuration A2 (or just A2) will be able to carry passengers from Europe to Australia in just two to four hours. By comparison, the retired Concorde was only capable of traveling up to Mach 2.
The A2 will use Scimitar engines, which are in effect modified rocket engines of the same variety used on the Reaction Engines’ SABRE spaceplane developed for the space tourism industry. The engine, however, can fire up at slow speeds on the runway and cruise at low speeds as well. This is important in such locations as over land where supersonic speeds are not permitted.
The second hydrogen plane of note uses an engine developed by the Ford Motor Company that will go into a Boeing HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) unmanned aircraft. The hydrogen engine for this aircraft has just passed a rigorous four-day test at the Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia.
The propulsion system contains a turbocharged 4-cylinder ICE (internal combustion system) that exhibited better than expected fuel economy and is similar to the gasoline version Ford is using in its Escape Hybrid and Fusion vehicles. The Boeing HALE aircraft is expected to be used for surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance and communications applications, primarily by the military.
Developers of hydrogen airplanes are coming a little late to the dance. So, it’s good to see a few entities like Ford, Boeing and the EU finally arriving and stepping up to the plate in an effort to clean up our friendly skies so that we all may breathe a little easier.