This year, Skytrans took the next step by launching the HFA, together with two airports (Brisbane and Gladstone), two universities (CQUniversity and Griffith University), a hydrogen expert (H2 Energy Company), and an aviation school (Aviation Australia).
While Stralis is working on a hydrogen-electric aircraft, the other Alliance members will help create the optimal ecosystem for commercial service. For instance, sustainable hydrogen production and adequate supply at airports are still considerable hurdles that need to be addressed.
The Olympics are far away, but Skytrans wants to kick off hydrogen-powered flights as soon as 2026. The first aircraft would travel between Brisbane Airport and Gladstone Airport. This is not a new type of airliner, built from scratch. Stralis has modified a Beechcraft 1900D, swapping the turbine engine and kerosene fuel system with its proprietary hydrogen-electric propulsion system (HEPS) and a dedicated liquid hydrogen storage tank.
The retrofitted aircraft will be a 15-seater with a maximum payload of 1,500 kg (3,300 lb). Powered by the Stralis HEPS, it could cover 800 km (432 nautical miles) at maximum payload, with a top speed of 500 kph (270 knots).
Stralis will add the power plant (two units boasting 955 kW at 1,700 rpm), overhaul the airframe and avionics, and refresh the cabin interior.
The modified B1900D-HE will obtain Supplemental Type Certification with CASA (Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority) and FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration). A flight test campaign will be kicked off at the beginning of next year with a smaller six-seat demonstrator.
As ambitious as its sounds, the B1900D-HE would only be the first step. Stralis wants to eventually design and build a green aircraft based on the feedback from the retrofitted version. The SA-1 would boast a much greater range (3,000 km/1,620 nautical miles) and capacity (50 seats). The aviation company hopes that the hydrogen-electric SA-1 will enter service by the end of this decade at similar operating costs as conventional single-aisle aircraft.
The Beechcraft 1900 is a legendary airliner. At one point, it was the best-selling 19-seat airliner of all time. Raytheon halted production of the Beechcraft 1900 two decades ago, but older units are still in operation to this day. With help from the Australian HFA, this iconic aircraft could make history again.