Airbus has announced plans to test hydrogen fuel technology using one of its A380 superjumbos.

The manufacturer has partnered with CFM International, a company jointly owned by GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, to collaborate on a hydrogen demonstration programme which will include test flights from the middle of the decade.

Under the plans the combustor, fuel system, and control system of a GE Passport turbofan engine will be modified to run on hydrogen, with the A380 being equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities in France and Germany.

The engine will be mounted along the rear fuselage of the flying testbed “to allow engine emissions, including contrails, to be monitored separately from those of the engines powering the aircraft”.

CFM will carry out an extensive ground test programme ahead of the test flight, while Airbus will “define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements” and oversee flight testing.

In 2020 Airbus unveiled a project codenamed ZEROe, with three aircraft concepts relying on hydrogen as their primary power source.

Airbus unveils concepts for zero-emission commercial aircraft

The manufacturer hopes that the new test programme will pave the way for entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft by 2035.

Commenting on the news Sabine Klauke, Airbus chief technical officer, said:

“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.

“By leveraging the expertise of American and European engine manufacturers to make progress on hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making zero-emission flight a reality.”,