Airbus and CFM to join forces for hydrogen propulsion programme

A380 flight test platform for the ZEROe demonstrator ©Airbus

Airbus has announced that it has signed a partnership agreement with CFM International (CFM) for the two companies to work on a hydrogen propulsion system. CFM is a 50:50 joint company created by General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines. The aim of the two companies is to both ground and flight test a hydrogen-fuelled direct combustion engine with the aim of bringing it into service by 2035 as part of a zero-emissions aircraft.

The demonstration programme Airbus and CFM will initially work on will involve the use of an A380 flying testbed which will be equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks that will be made ready at French and German Airbus facilities. Airbus will be responsible for the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, overseeing all flight testing, and providing the A380 platform to test the hydrogen combustion engine in cruise phase. CFM will be responsible for modifying the combustor, fuel system and control system off a GE Passport turbofan engine that will run on hydrogen.

The US-built engine, which already exists, was chosen for this programme for its physical size, advanced turbo machinery and fuel flow capability. It will be mounted along the rear fuselage of the flying testbed to facilitate the monitoring of engine emissions, including contrails, separately from those of the engines powering the aircraft. CFM will also carry out a comprehensive ground test programme ahead of the A380 flight test.

“This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020,” said Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer. “Hydrogen combustion capability is one of the foundational technologies we are developing and maturing as part of the CFM RISE Program,” said Gaël Méheust, president & CEO of CFM.

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