Based at the Cranfield Airport in the UK, CAeS has the advantage of easy access to advanced test and research facilities for new technologies. It will use its expertise to convert an already existing model from conventional fossil fuel to gaseous hydrogen. The Britten Norman Islander, a nine-seat aircraft, will be fitted with a fuel cell system and electric motor.
This will turn it into an emission-free air vehicle. Once it obtains the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) it will kick off passenger flights as soon as 2025. Retrofitting allows hydrogen-powered aircraft to be ready for service much sooner than those designed specifically for a hydrogen-electric powertrain. The modified Britten Norman Islander is set to provide emission-free air services in Northern Europe in just two years.
Islander is one of the most versatile aircraft available today. For conventional operations, its two-piston versions are powered by Lycoming’s 540 Series six-cylinder engines, while the turboprop version is equipped with Rolls-Royce 320 HP engines. Its length varies from 35 to 40 feet (10.9 to 12 meters), and its modular cabin design can go from a passenger layout to freight transportation and special missions.
This new collaboration is just one of several aircraft retrofit projects currently underway. The largest one is most likely ZeroAvia’s 19-seat regional aircraft conversion to the ZA600 hydrogen-electric powertrain.