easyJet leads first airside hydrogen-refuelling trial at major UK airport

easyJet has led the first airside hydrogen-refuelling trial at a major UK airport, as the airline predicts the clean fuel will become increasingly important to short-haul flights.

Named Project Acorn, the trial aims to speed up the use of hydrogen in aviation as the UK looks to have zero emission airport operations by 2040.

The hydrogen was used to refuel and power parts of easyJet’s ground support equipment (GSE) – specifically, baggage tractors – servicing passenger aircraft at Bristol, showcasing that the fuel can be used both safely and reliably in a busy, live airport environment.

Data and insight from the easyJet trial, which was in development for over a year, will be used to create the first-ever safety guidance on hydrogen use at airports, while also informing the creation of a regulatory framework.

In development for over a year, the trial also involved leading organisations from across aviation, engineering, logistics and academia, as well as the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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It comes as easyJet joins forces with Rolls-Royce, Airbus and GKN to call on the government to provide funding for further research into hydrogen-powered planes.

easyJet chief operating officer David Morgan said: “It’s without doubt that hydrogen will be an important fuel of the future for short-haul aviation, as demonstrated by the rate of innovation we’re seeing.

“While the technology is advancing at an exciting pace, as hydrogen isn’t used in commercial aviation today, there is currently no regulatory guidance in place on how it can and should be used, and so trials like this are very important in building the safety case and providing critical data and insight to inform the development of the industry’s first regulatory framework.

“This will ensure regulation not only keeps pace with innovation, but importantly also supports the industry in meeting its decarbonisation targets by 2050.”

Tim Johnson, director for strategy, policy and communications at the Civil Aviation Authority, said projects like this are “cornerstones of our commitment to support innovation and decarbonisation in the industry”.

Anthony Browne, aviation minister, said Project Acorn is an example of the UK aviation sector “pushing the boundaries of what’s possible” and “using leading engineering to make decarbonisation a reality from the ground operation to the planes themselves”.

“Innovative projects like this are crucial to achieving our target, set out in the Jet Zero Strategy of zero emission airport operations by 2040,” he added.

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