A Piper M Series light aircraft being used by ZeroAvia to test its hydrogen propulsion system landed in a field just outside Cranfield Airport in England on April 29. According to the company, neither of the two flight crew on board were injured, but the aircraft sustained some damage and the incident has been reported to the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch.
In a statement issued by ZeroAvia, it said that the Piper made “a safe off-airport landing” during a “routine pattern test flight.” It stated that the aircraft landed on its wheels and almost came to a stop before it sustained damage as it reached uneven terrain at low speed.
A low-resolution image released by the local fire service, which attended the accident scene, showed one side of the wing completely detached from the Piper and some damage to the horizontal stablizer. The aircraft appeared to have collided with a hedge on the perimeter of the field.
“We are investigating this incident and analyzing the data to assess the cause, and we will provide updates as we learn more,” said the company statement. According to the fire service, the incident happened just before 3.30 p.m. local time.
On March 31, ZeroAvia announced plans to develop a 50-seat airliner powered by hydrogen in a project that will be supported by $24.3 million in new capital raised by investors including British Airways. The California-based start-up has been using the Piper as a flying testbed and has been preparing to conduct a 70-mile flight between Cranfield and Kemble airfield in southern England. It aims to make a flight of around 250 miles later this year from the Orkney Islands to the Scottish mainland.
According to ZeroAvia, the propulsion system for the testbed aircraft consists of fuel cells and a battery from which power is transferred to an electric motor that drives the propeller.