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ZeroAvia brings hydrogen-powered aircraft tests to Hollister

Local expansion to provide 50-plus new high-tech jobs

ZeroAvia unveiled its new 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft, pictured, at the Hollister Municipal Airport last week. Contributed photo.

Hollister Municipal Airport is set to become a testing ground for zero-emission aircraft—and perhaps even a hub for hydrogen-electric power research—as an international technology company recently announced its new 19-seat aircraft will be based at the local facility. 

ZeroAvia has received its second twin-engine Dornier 228 aircraft at its Hollister headquarters. The company’s new U.S. initiative will start with its system developed in its HyFlyer II project in the United Kingdom, and integrate it into the same type of aircraft, says an announcement from ZeroAvia. The aircraft will become the basis for testing new components and integrations, and a testbed for working with federal aircraft regulators ahead of the ZA600 aircraft’s planned certification in 2024. 

“This new project in California will allow us to use architectures from our Hyflyer II initiative, where we are working with the same aircraft, and apply those lessons as we further test and demonstrate the system across a number of different use cases,” said Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia. “Ultimately, this will help us optimize our zero-emission powertrain design ahead of certification. This year we will have two demonstration aircraft flying on two continents powered by our hydrogen-electric powertrains which will further help us secure partner and customer commitments across the worldwide aviation industry.”

ZeroAvia is working toward a hybrid engine configuration that incorporates the company’s hydrogen-electric powertrain and a conventional motor into the new aircraft. The conversion is expected to take up to four months before the aircraft is prepared for test flights. 

After the engine is configured, ZeroAvia will begin its flight testing and demonstration program for passenger, cargo and industrial uses with partners to be announced in the near future, says a press release from ZeroAvia. 

ZeroAvia will expand its facility at the Hollister Airport to accommodate adequate staff and resources to reach the test program’s preferred milestones. The company has added a new 15,000-square-foot hangar to its local footprint, increasing space for engineering work on the aircraft and its HyperTruck test bed platform. The expansion also provides ample office space to support the growing operations. 

Local officials touted the expansion of ZeroAvia’s hybrid-engine aircraft testing program and the company’s local expansion as an economic development boon. 

“There is huge potential for Hollister Municipal Airport to become a hydrogen hub,” said Renee Wells, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County (EDC). “There will be significant demand and since California leads the world in adopting zero-emission vehicles, zero-emission flight infrastructure is the next natural frontier. ZeroAvia’s technology is an economically viable solution and the EDC is thrilled to support them as they become the first TTF business development at the airport, bring 50-plus new jobs by year end, and put Hollister on the map for innovative technology.”

Last fall, ZeroAvia conducted the first program ground test of its HyFlyer II program and successfully tested the flight-intent 600kW powertrain with its 15-ton HyperTruck mobile ground testing platform, says the press release. The HyperTruck—developed based on heavy-duty military trucks—is sized to also support testing the company’s larger planned powertrain (ZA-2000, with shaft power over 1.8 megawatt) which can be used to test systems for 40-80 seat aircraft. 

The HyFlyer II Project is co-funded by a $16.3 million grant through the UK Government’s ATI Programme, the press release continues. Progressing the demonstrations of the two Dornier aircraft is a key next step for ZeroAvia’s “pathway to realizing the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen as the primary energy source for commercial aviation.”

In the last quarter of 2021, ZeroAvia secured partnerships and funding with major airlines Alaska Air Group and United Airlines to accelerate the development of its ZA2000 engine—the largest of ZeroAvia’s powertrain platforms capable of producing between 2,000 kW and 5,000 kW, according to ZeroAvia. The company also recently announced its latest partnership with ZEV Station where the two will collaborate to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure at airports in California. ZeroAvia was also just named as a Bloomberg NEF Pioneer for its efforts to decarbonize aviation.

ZeroAvia has already secured experimental certificates for its two prototype aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration and California regulators. The company is on track for commercial flight operations in 2024.