Pipistrel makes aviation history

Ajdovščina/Stuttgart, 30 September - Pipistrel, the Slovenian maker of ultralight aircraft, made aviation history this week as it accomplished the first public flight with the Hy4, a four-seat passenger aircraft powered by a zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell engine at Stuttgart Airport, Germany.

An ultralight plane.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

"Once again, we managed to push the development of aviation one more step into the green direction," Pipistrel boss and owner Ivo Boscarol was quoted as saying in a company press release.

The Hy4 is the brainchild of an international team that includes Pipistrel, fuel cell maker Hydrogenics, the University of Ulm in Germany and the consortium H2Fly.

The plane flew only 15 minutes over Stuttgart Airport on Thursday, which closed the airspace for other aircraft for the duration of the test, but it has the potential to travel 1,500 kilometres on fuel cell power alone at a maximum speed of 200 km/h.

The Hy4, a twin-fuselage aircraft with a wingspan of 21.4 metres and a single engine mounted in the middle, is the first four-seater aircraft in the world powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell.

It is a modified version of the G4 plane that won the NASA Green Challenge five years ago, though it had been powered by batteries then, not by fuel cells.

As Pipistrel noted, the team may be different, "but the amount of hard work and sleepless nights was the same".

© STA, 2016