The Anonymous Widower

Flybe Appears To Be On The Way Back

I was alerted to the relaunch of the Flybe airline being a serious proposition by this article on the Birmingham Mail, which is entitled Watch As First Of 32 New Flybe Planes Lands At Birmingham Airport.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The first of Flybe’s more eco-friendly planes has landed in Birmingham ready for the launch of the airline’s new city HQ.

Part of a planned 32-aircraft fleet, the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprop touched down on the runway at Birmingham Airport on Friday.

The new Flybe will be based at Birmingham Airport and will have a fleet consisting of thirty-two De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 aircraft.

The De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400

Note these facts about the aircraft.

  1. According to Wikipedia, 645 aircraft have been ordered, with 587 having been delivered.
  2. Different variants can handle between 40 and 80 passengers.
  3. All aircraft delivered since 1996 are dubbed Q-Series and have active noise and vibration suppression, which is designed to improve the cabin ambience.
  4. A Dash 8-400 is also called a Q400.

But the most interesting development of the Dash 8 aircraft, is that developments are underway, so that the aircraft will be able to be powered by hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen And A Hydrogen-Powered Q400

This article on Future Flight is entitled Universal Assembles Hydrogen Aircraft Conversion Team In Washington State.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Universal Hydrogen and its hydrogen fuel cell partner Plug Power are joining forces with electric motor specialists MagniX and AeroTec to set up a Hydrogen Aviation Test and Service Center at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The partners will use the new facility to convert a Dash 8 regional airliner to hydrogen propulsion in time to start commercial operations in 2025. Flight testing is due to begin in 2022.

The new hydrogen powertrain will consist of an electric propulsion unit (EPU) developed by MagniX and fuel cells provided by Plug Power, which has extensive experience converting trucks to hydrogen. Seattle-based AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates. The system installation work will be conducted at the Moses Lake facility.

This paragraph gives details of the design.

The hydrogen-powered Dash 8 aircraft, which carry between 41 and 60 passengers, will be able to operate on routes of up to around 625 miles. Universal Hydrogen’s plan calls for the fuel to be delivered directly to aircraft in capsules that are installed in a compartment at the rear of the fuselage.

These are my thoughts on the design.

Power Required

Wikipedia says this about the engines of the Dash 8-400 (Q400).

The Series 400 uses Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines rated at 4,850 shp (3,620 kW).

This means that the aircraft will need fuel cells capable of delivering over 7 MW.

This data sheet on the Plug Power web site, says that the company has fuel cells  up to 125 KW, which weigh 350 Kg and need a cooling module, that weighs a further 103 Kg. Scaling up shows the power unit could weigh around 25.4 tonnes.

As the maximum take-off weight of a Q400 is around 30.5 tonnes, this wouldn’t leave much weight for the airframe, the two electric motors and propellers, the hydrogen and the passengers and their luggage.

It would appear that Plug Power must be using some form of lighter-weight fuel cell.

Or could they be using an appropriately-sized gas turbine generator from Pratt & Whitney Canada?

It should be noted that a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engine, weighs under a tonne and generates over 3.5 MW.

Obviously, they wouldn’t be developing the plane, if they hadn’t figured out how to generate enough electricity to get it off the ground.

The Hydrogen Capsules

The Product page on the Universal Hydrogen web site is revealing.

This paragraph from the Product page describes how they would convert Regional Aircraft to Hydrogen.

Our first product is a conversion kit for existing regional aircraft, starting with the ATR72 and the De Havilland Canada Dash-8, to fly on hydrogen. This consists of a fuel cell electric powertrain that replaces the existing turboprop engines. It also accommodates, in the rear of the fuselage, our proprietary, lightweight, modular hydrogen capsules that are transported from green hydrogen production sites to the airport and loaded directly into the aircraft using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. By providing both an aircraft conversion solution for the existing fleet and a fuel services offering directly to regional airlines, we will be in passenger service with zero emissions by 2025 and in cargo service shortly thereafter.

Note.

  1. The cutaway on the Product page of a De Havilland Canada Dash-8, which has three capsules in the rear fuselage.
  2. The cutaway shows forty seats in the aircraft.
  3. If you scroll the pictures, you’ll see the design of the capsule.
  4. The product can be used to convert two regional airliners both of which are in production.
  5. Airports will need no new infrastructure to handle the hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen has also signed a deal with Fortescue Future Industries to supply green hydrogen to fill the capsules.

 Are A First Flight In 2022 And An in-Service Date Of 2025 Over Ambitious?

The article in Future Flight says this.

AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates.

FAA Supplemental Type Certificates are outlined on this page on the FAA web site, where this introductory paragraph is given.

A supplemental type certificate (STC) is a type certificate (TC) issued when an applicant has received FAA approval to modify an aeronautical product from its original design. The STC, which incorporates by reference the related TC, approves not only the modification but also how that modification affects the original design.

They are a much-used and well-proven method to update aircraft for new purposes and new power units.

I suspect that going this route will enable Q400 and ATR 72 aircraft will be flying on hydrogen by 2025.

How Far Will A Range Of 625 Miles Take The Plane From Birmingham?

I have used the Air Miles Calculator to calculate distances in miles from Birmingham.

  • Amsterdam Schiphol – 276
  • Barcelona – 791
  • Belfast City 225
  • Berlin Schönefeld – 644
  • Biarritz – 621
  • Bilbao – 635
  • Bordeaux – 529
  • Cologne – 397
  • Copenhagen – 624
  • Cork – 290
  • Dublin – 200
  • Dusseldorf – 373
  • Edinburgh – 251
  • Frankfurt – 452
  • Geneva – 556
  • Glasgow – 260
  • Hamburg – 495
  • Inverness – 364
  • Jersey – 225
  • Kirkwall – 474
  • Lerwick – 536
  • Lyon – 558
  • Munich – 660
  • Newcastle – 179
  • Newquay – 198
  • Nice – 735
  • Oslo – 726
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle – 303
  • Paris-Orly – 315
  • Rotterdam – 265
  • Strasbourg – 494

Note.

  1. It might be possible to serve some routes without refuelling at the other end.
  2. Some routes could be paired for efficiency and still be well below 600 miles.
  3. The large intercontinental airports of Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt and Paris-Charles de Gaulle should be reached easily.
  4. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has a well-connected railway station.
  5. Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport has a TGV station.
  6. Frankfurt Airport has a long distance railway station on the Cologne-Frankfurt high speed line.
  7. If you’re flying to the South of France or Switzerland, it looks like flying from London City Airport is about a hundred miles shorter.

It would appear that the range of 625 miles could be very useful, especially if you use a long distance train at both ends of the flight.

I can certainly understand why Flybe has chosen Birmingham as its main base.

 

Will Flybe Convert Their Aircraft To Hydrogen?

This is obviously up to the company, but if they don’t, someone else will and Flybe will lose their regional market in the UK.

Conclusion

I think those behind the new Flybe could be looking to create the UK’s first zero-carbon airline.

December 2, 2021 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Universal Hydrogen’s CEO is the former CTO of Airbus, and Tom Enders, former Airbus CEO is on the board (he also joined Lilium’s board earlier this year). So the pedigree is there. I like the idea of delivering H in standardised containers, which should simplyify things, and speed up turn around times.

    I would doubt though that hydrogen is behind Flybe’s decision to use Dashes. As https://simpleflying.com/what-happened-to-flybes-aircraft/ notes, they were the largest user of the planes at the time of their demise, and are simply taking back the aircraft. Given the problems is in aircraft industry atm, I expect they got a good deal from the leasing company.

    Comment by Peter Robins | December 2, 2021 | Reply

  2. […] I discussed this in Flybe Appears To Be On The Way Back. […]

    Pingback by Could Universal Hydrogen’s Concept Create A Hydrogen-Powered Single-Aisle Airliner? « The Anonymous Widower | December 2, 2021 | Reply


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