Airbus and CFM to equip A380 with hydrogen-powered engine

Computer rendering of what the test aircraft will look like. Image: © Airbus

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus and engine manufacturer CFM International have signed an agreement to introduce a hydrogen-powered flight demonstration programme.

This partnership will see the two companies modify and equip an Airbus A380 jet with a hydrogen-powered engine, which will be mounted on the rear fuselage. Four hydrogen tanks will be installed in the back of the cabin. The demonstration aircraft is set to take flight “around the middle of this decade“, according to Airbus, but a more specific timeframe for the project was not given. An estimated programme cost was not disclosed during a press conference on Tuesday, 22nd February.

In the United States, CFM International, a joint-venture of General Electric and Safran, is modifying an existing engine type to run on hydrogen. The company also develops the fuel and control systems. Before being fitted on the A380, the CFM engine will undergo a testing programme on the ground.

The aircraft being used for the project is the Airbus A380-800 with serial number MSN001 – the first A380 ever built.

Four hydrogen fuel tanks will be installed in the rear of the cabin. Image: © Airbus

In September 2020, Airbus first unveiled concepts for future aircraft designs utilising hydrogen for propulsion. The announcement with CFM is the first firm plan to fit a hydrogen engine on a flying test aircraft.  “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“, says Sabine Klauke, Chief Technical Officer at Airbus.

The European aircraft manufacturer bets on hydrogen to power future zero-emission commercial passenger aircraft. It wants to introduce the first hydrogen-powered airplanes in 2035, although many see this as a highly ambitious time goal.