Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) is one step closer to making zero-emissions flight commercially available by 2025.
The company has purchased and taken delivery of a Britten-Norman Islander from Isles of Scilly Steamship Group (ISSG), and will retrofit the aircraft with hydrogen fuel cell technology. CAeS is the UK SME leading the Project Fresson consortium, which is currently integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology to develop a commercially viable, retrofit powertrain solution for aviation.
The arrival of the Islander in CAeS’s hangar marks a critical step toward the world’s first regulatory-certified, zero-emissions, commercial passenger-carrying aircraft.
The buying and taking delivery of the Islander is an important milestone in the project timeline. Physically having the aircraft in the hanger will enable the company to commence test flights on the existing engines so as to record full performance and then start making alterations to remove existing powertrains and install and test the revolutionary hydrogen powertrains.
CAeS aims for the first test flight to take place in Q1 2023, and for the zero emissions product to be in the GBP820m Islander market in 2025, both as a retro-fit solution, and incorporated into the new model of the Islander (new model to be available from Britten-Norman). This constitutes Phase 1 on the hydrogen aviation journey by CAeS, with the aim to next produce a commercially viable hydrogen 19-seat aircraft, before ultimately developing a new design zero emissions 75-seat regional aircraft.
CAeS is an established business with 80+ staff and average revenues of just under £8m per annum (past 5 years) from supplying a range of aircraft modification projects and other services to leading aerospace OEMs. CAeS is one of very few aerospace SMEs globally to have both whole modification of existing aircraft design capability, and to hold a range of regulatory approvals for the design and manufacture of modifications to existing aircraft. CAeS is based at Cranfield Airport where they have access to some of the UK’s most advanced aviation research facilities.
CAeS is a long-established aircraft company with a client base that has included Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, L3, Thales and Raytheon (amongst others). Project Fresson has been supported by the UK Government through a GBP10.3m ATI Grant.
Paul Hutton, CEO of CAeS said “We are excited to begin testing our hydrogen fuel cell powertrain technology on a widely used commercial aircraft. It is critical that the aviation industry delivers real zero emissions aircraft solutions to reduce its impact on the environment. We are now rapidly progressing to delivering the first certified emissions free passenger carrying aircraft services anywhere in the world.”
The new aircraft to be converted is a BN2B-26 Islander, registration G-BUBP (but will shortly be re-registered as G-HYUK, for Hydrogen UK).
Isles of Scilly Steamship Company runs passenger and freight flights under the name Skybus. It operates out of Land’s End Airport & Newquay airport to the Isles of Scilly, and seasonally from Exeter carrying 90,000 passengers annually. The BN Islander fleet is used to carry time critical freight to the Isles of Scilly such as medicines and medical products. Skybus also provides a medical evacuation service for patients, using a stretcher system developed for the BN Islander. Skybus has operated BN Islanders to the Isles of Scilly since 1984 and they play an important role in our lifeline operations.
Stuart Reid, Chief Executive Officer of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group said “We are pleased to have completed the sale of G-BUBP, one of our four BN Islander aircraft, to Cranfield Aerospace Solutions.” The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company are committed to working towards a zero emission aviation industry and being an early adopter of this cutting-edge technology. We are excited about Cranfield Aerospace’s Project Fresson and we look forward to the development of their new hydrogen fuel cell aircraft.