Boeing's Diamond Aircraft "Dimona" makes the
first flight ever of an aircraft powered by
hydrogen fuel cells 4/3/08
4/3/2008 - MADRID, Spain -- Boeing announced today
that it has, for the first time in aviation history,
flown a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel
The recent milestone is the work of an engineering
team at Boeing Research & Technology Europe
(BR&TE) in Madrid, with assistance from industry
partners in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, the
United Kingdom and the United States.
"Boeing is actively working to develop new
technologies for environmentally progressive aerospace
products," said Francisco Escarti, BR&TE's
managing director. "We are proud of our pioneering
work during the past five years on the Fuel Cell
Demonstrator Airplane project. It is a tangible
example of how we are exploring future leaps in
environmental performance, as well as a credit to the
talents and innovative spirit of our team."
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that
converts hydrogen directly into electricity and heat
with none of the products of combustion such as carbon
dioxide. Other than heat, water is its only exhaust.
A two-seat Dimona motor-glider with a 16.3 meter
(53.5 foot) wingspan was used as the airframe. Built
by Diamond Aircraft Industries of Austria, it was
modified by BR&TE to include a Proton Exchange
Membrane (PEM) fuel cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid
system to power an electric motor coupled to a
Three test flights took place in February and March
at the airfield in Ocaņa, south of Madrid, operated by
the Spanish company SENASA.
During the flights, the pilot of the experimental
airplane climbed to an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,300
feet) above sea level using a combination of battery
power and power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.
Then, after reaching the cruise altitude and
disconnecting the batteries, the pilot flew straight
and level at a cruising speed of 100 kilometers per
hour (62 miles per hour) for approximately 20 minutes
on power solely generated by the fuel cells.
According to Boeing researchers, PEM fuel cell
technology potentially could power small manned and
unmanned air vehicles. Over the longer term, solid
oxide fuel cells could be applied to secondary
power-generating systems, such as auxiliary power
units for large commercial airplanes. Boeing does not
envision that fuel cells will ever provide primary
power for large passenger airplanes, but the company
will continue to investigate their potential, as well
as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy
sources that improve environmental performance.
BR&TE, part of the Boeing Phantom Works advanced
R&D unit, has worked closely with Boeing
Commercial Airplanes and a network of partners since
2003 to design, assemble and fly the experimental
Source: Boeing Press Release