United plans to convert its CRJ-550s to run on hydrogen in 2028

US airline became a partner of ZeroAvia, a British company that develops hydrogen engines and is due to put an adapted turboprop into commercial service in 2024

United Airlines has once again taken the lead in new technologies associated with air travel. The US carrier announced on Monday that it had invested in ZeroAvia, a British start-up that develops technologies to convert conventional aircraft to the use of hydrogen.

According to the airline, the goal is to convert 50 CRJ-550 jets to be equipped with ZA2000-RJ engines, powered by hydrogen-electricity starting in 2028.

“Hydrogen-electric engines are one of the most promising paths to zero-emission air travel for a smaller aircraft, and this investment will keep United out in front of this important emerging technology,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United.

Under the agreement, the airline will have the rights to purchase 50 engines with an option for another 50 units.

ZeroAvia is converting a Do 228 turboprop aircraft to fly with hydrogen (ZeroAvia)

“This support by United, alongside our other forward-thinking partners, demonstrates the importance of hydrogen-electric propulsion in the future of sustainable flight,” said Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO and of ZeroAvia. “The United Express routes powered by hydrogen-electric aircraft will be enabling large numbers of passengers to take zero-emission flights well within this decade.”

Flights between the UK and the Netherlands in 2024

ZeroAvia is developing a first hydrogen engine, the ZA600, which will be installed in a Dornier 228 turboprop in order to obtain certification and start commercial flights as early as 2024. The idea is to establish a route between the UK and the Netherlands, as soon as partners are found able to operate the flights.

In September 2020, the company carried out the first flight of a passenger plane powered by hydrogen-electric, using an adapted six-seat Piper single-engine aircraft.


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