“Lightning McClean,” as the aircraft is called, will now be based at Mojave for additional test flights gearing up to its goal of commercial entry into service in late 2025.
Universal Hydrogen has selected the Mojave Air and Space Port as its new flight test centre, and also completed 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 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, 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.
The ferry flight began in Moses Lake, Washington and traveled down the west coast with four stops across Oregon and California, covering a distance of over 800 nautical miles before reaching Mojave. “Lightning McClean,” as the aircraft is called, will now be based there for 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.
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 centre 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.
"In our relentless pursuit to decarbonise 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."
The Mojave Air and Space Port, first opened in 1935, has long been a pivotal player in aviation, serving as a major operation base in World War II and evolving into a hub of innovation in modern aviation and space industries. The location's history is further distinguished by groundbreaking achievements, such as the Voyager's global flight in 1986 - the first aircraft to encircle the world without stopping or refueling under the command of pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager - and the launch of SpaceShipOne, the inaugural privately-funded human spaceflight, piloted by Mike Melvill on June 21, 2004.
"Bringing Universal Hydrogen to the Mojave Air and Space Port is a big win for us and the local community,” says 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.”
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,” says David Hochschild, chair 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,” adds 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.”
|Contact details from our directory:|
|Universal Hydrogen||Fuel Cells|
|Related aircraft programs:|
|De Havilland Dash 8 Series|
|Related directory sectors:|
|Electrical Power Systems|