Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


American and JetBlue-Backed Startup Cleared to Fly Hydrogen-Powered Plane

4 months ago

Hydrogen-powered flight is one step closer to reality. Universal Hydrogen, which is developing a hydrogen fuel-cell powered commercial aircraft engine, has a green light from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to begin test flights.

While a little later than hoped — Universal Hydrogen had aimed for the first flight of its powertrain late last year — the news is a positive step forward in the aviation industry’s quest to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Universal Hydrogen’s technology, which transmits power directly from the fuel cells to the engine without the need for a weighty battery, is being tested on a mid-sized turboprop, a De Havilland Dash 8-300, with the aim of introducing it commercially on the ATR 72 by 2025.

Tests flights will initially take place in Moses Lake, Wash.

Universal Hydrogen's testbed for its fuel cell engine technology
Universal Hydrogen will test its hydrogen fuel-cell engine technology on a Dash 8-300 turboprop. (Universal Hydrogen)

JF Tessier, head of commercial for the Americas & East Asia at Universal Hydrogen, said last September that hydrogen, whether in used directly as fuel or in fuel-cell form, could be ideal to significantly reduce or eliminate emissions from smaller aircraft. He referred to both regional planes, like the ATR that Universal Hydrogen plans to introduce its technology on, up to ubiquitous mid-size airliners like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. For larger planes flying longer routes, sustainable aviation fuel is likely the best method to cut emissions.

Universal Hydrogen is just one of many companies — new and old — working to cut emissions from commercial aircraft. Others include Airbus, Archer Aviation, Eviation, and Heart Aerospace to name a few.

American Airlines and JetBlue Ventures are both investors in Universal Hydrogen.


Delta, JetBlue Air Taxi Supplier Joby Delays Commercial Flights by a Year

7 months ago

Joby Aviation has delayed the introduction of its new electric air taxi by about a year to 2025, as the certification of the new aircraft proceeds slower than hoped. The developer disclosed the delay in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday.

The delay has immediate implications for Delta Air Lines, which in October unveiled plans to launch a premium air taxi product with Joby in 2024. Delta will sell and market the flights on what are officially known as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, while Joby manages operations and branding under the exclusive partnership. The airline will invest up to $200 million in the air taxi company and be its sole partner on the new premium service for at least five years after commercial launch.

“The new timeline helps clear the air with some cautious optimism that the FAA expects to have necessary [regulations] in place by” the end of 2024, Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth wrote Thursday on the delay.

A Joby electric air taxi on a test flight
(Joby Aviation)

Joby, and other companies in the urban air mobility sector, claim that electric air taxi technology will revolutionize how people get around cities. In their partnerships with airlines, they tout fast, carbon-free rides on the battery-powered aircraft from downtowns or regional centers to airports. All of the in-development eVTOLS seat only four passengers and are able to fly no more than about 150 miles on a single charge.

JetBlue Ventures is also an investor in Joby, though its parent JetBlue Airways has yet to specify an order or operational plan for the air taxis in its network. Joby also counts Japan’s All Nippon Airways among its customers.

Read Joby's Shareholder Letter




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