Roll-Royce, easyJet test run hydrogen airplane engine

By Cameron Saunders
The ground test, which marks a first for hydrogen-powered airplane engines, could potentially lead the way for net-zero flying, a long sought after goal

Reaching for the sky, Rolls-Royce and easyJet have achieved a new milestone in the history of aviation: the world’s first test run of a modern aero engine powered by hydrogen. 

The test run – conducted on ground using green hydrogen powered by wind and tidal power – marks a step forward in what could be a zero-carbon aviation fuel of the future. Hydrogen has long been seen as a possible way to make the airline industry – which is one of the planet's biggest polluters – more sustainable. 

The quest for net zero

It also speaks volumes for the decarbonisation strategies of both Rolls-Royce and easyJet, two companies that first announced their partnership in July after they signed up to the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign. This campaign includes a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Commenting on the achievement, Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini commented: “The success of this hydrogen test is an exciting milestone. We only announced our partnership with easyJet in July and we are already off to an incredible start with this landmark achievement. 

“We are pushing the boundaries to discover the zero carbon possibilities of hydrogen, which could help reshape the future of flight.”

The test itself occurred at a facility at MoD Boscombe Down, UK. A converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine was used, and the green hydrogen powering the operation was supplied by the European Marine Energy Centre. This green hydrogen was generated at a hydrogen production facility in the Orkney Islands, UK. 

Speaking to the advantages of hydrogen, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the following: “We are committed to continuing to support this ground-breaking research because hydrogen offers great possibilities for a range of aircraft, including easyJet-sized aircraft. That will be a huge step forward in meeting the challenge of net zero by 2050.”

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