Australian-owned company Aviation H2 is committed to achieving net-zero emissions in the aerospace industry through its use of green hydrogen. It has hatched an ambitious plan to produce Australia’s first hydrogen-powered aeroplane, with the aim of it taking to the sky in mid-2023.

With the aviation industry contributing a significant amount of CO2 to global emissions, the development of clean, green aircraft will play a major role in decarbonising the transport industry and helping reduce the effects of climate change.

Aviation H2 is committed to developing technology and exploring the possibilities that renewable hydrogen can offer. The company recently completed a feasibility study that determined liquid ammonia as the ideal carbon-free fuel for the project, which should allow it to have the world’s first hydrogen-fuelled plane flying by the middle of next year.

Capital raising via online platform VCEX will allow Aviation H2 to fund the purchase of test engines and the construction of its first modification prototype. The Dassault Falcon 50 business jet – a long-range international business charter jet aircraft that is common in Australia – has been chosen for the test flight.

This particular aircraft has three engines, but only two are required for flight, allowing the third engine to be modified to use liquid ammonia, before eventual modification of the main engines.

Brothers Christof Mayer (left) and Dr Helmut Mayer (right) are the directors of Aviation H2. Photo: Supplied.

Aviation H2’s research shows that converting a Falcon 50 to liquid ammonia turbofan combustion is the most efficient and commercially viable avenue to building a hydrogen-powered plane.

“By implementing this power path, Aviation H2 can fly aircraft with hydrogen fuel using significantly less weight than alternative power paths while generating the same amount of power,” says Aviation H2 director Dr Helmut Mayer.

“There are multiple reasons why liquid ammonia was selected. Chiefly, its advantages include high gravimetric and volumetric hydrogen density that makes it lighter and easier to transport while providing a greater energy conversion rate.

“In fact, the stored weight of liquid ammonia energy is substantially lighter than gaseous hydrogen and can be kept at a much lower tank pressure.”

Turbofans are a widely used type of jet engine that is known for its high fuel efficiency.

“When liquid ammonia is used in the combustion chamber, a turbofan can produce the same amount of thrust as traditional fuel sources,” says Dr Mayer.

“Proving liquid ammonia through the modification of existing engines allows future customers to modify their existing aircraft rather than buying new fleets.”

One of the engines of a Dassault Falcon 50 business jet will be converted to liquid ammonia turbofan combustion. Photo: Supplied.

Aviation H2 has signed a strategic partnership with aircraft charter operator FalconAir, including for the use of its hangar in Bankstown, Sydney, as well as the use of its facilities and operating licences.

FalconAir will assist in acquiring test engines and aircraft; provide specialist and licensed aircraft maintenance engineering and piloting; and assist in dialogue with aviation authorities to aid the acceleration of the certification process.

“This [partnership] marks a monumental step towards developing a technology that will lead to the decarbonisation of the aviation industry, which contributes 2.5 per cent to global emissions,” says Dr Mayer.

“We now have a hangar, options for purchasing an aeroplane, and a clear plan for how we want to build it.

“FalconAir has extensive experience dealing with Falcon 50 aircraft, and it has a global network of relationships which will prove instrumental in purchasing both the aircraft and the test engine.”

Once next year’s test flight is successful, Aviation H2 will have a patentable method for modifying aircraft to operate on carbon-free fuel, which will then be certified and commercialised, followed by the company publicly listing in Q4 of 2023.