Students from the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands have built a prototype for a liquid-hydrogen-powered aircraft and are preparing to start flight testing later this year. The Phoenix PT model has been developed over the past two years by the college’s AeroDelft team of around 50 aerospace students from 17 countries who unveiled the aircraft today.
With a maximum takeoff weight of just 50 kg (110 pounds), the aircraft is intended only as a research project to give the students experience with the propulsion, composite structures, electronic controls, and certification challenges associated with a new aircraft. The design, which looks like a glider, has a long wing with a six-meter span (just under 20 feet) and a much shorter fuselage that is just 2.9 meters in length.
Initially, AeroDelft will fly the Phoenix PT on just battery-power this spring. By the summer it intends to be ready to fly the prototype with gaseous hydrogen, which is regarded as being easier to work with before making the initial flights with liquid hydrogen fuel in the fall.
At a later stage, AeroDelft aims to produce a larger-scale hydrogen-powered aircraft that could carry two passengers. One of its objectives is to achieve sufficient range for a flight from the Netherlands to Spain on a single tank of liquid hydrogen.
The project’s sponsors included Akzo Nobel, Nova Reparta, NLR (the Dutch aerospace research agency), Arena Aviation Capital, and TNO.