A hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft developed by the ‘ENFICA-FC’ project has completed a number of successful test flights out of Reggio Emilia airport in Italy, establishing new speed and endurance records for electrically powered class C aeroplanes.

The European Union is supporting the development of ‘more electric’ and ‘all electric’ aircraft. The primary advantages of electric technologies in aviation include low emissions and low noise, particularly important for commuter airplanes that usually take off and land in urban areas.

The goal of the ENFICA-FC project, including ten partners from across the EU, has been to demonstrate manned flight in an electric aircraft using fuel cells as a main power supply. Over three years, it has worked to design, develop and install a fuel cell-based power system in a Czech-built ultra-light aircraft.

The aircraft, called Rapid 200-FC, completed its maiden flight on 20 May 2010, using a completely electrical hybrid power system, comprising a 20kW PEM fuel cell and a 20 kW Li-Po battery. Test Pilot Marco Locatelli carried out a first aero-mechanical take off, followed by an eleven-minute test flight for investigations of the flight envelope.

Level flight was attained at 700 ft and 130 km/h on a partial fuel cell power setting. Further flight tests were carried out on 26 and 27 May 2010, during which RAPID 200-FC established a new world speed record of 135 km/h for electrically powered class C aeroplanes (four consecutive runs over a 3 km course, as per FAI Sporting Code).

Source: Fuel Cell Today