Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard
The world’s first flight by a “commercially available aircraft” powered by hydrogen fuel cells has been heralded as a milestone in the development of sustainable aviation.
Developer ZeroAvia operated the flight from its research and development facility at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire on Thursday.
The six-seater Piper Malibu plane completed the 20-minute flight using zero-emission hydrogen as part of the HyFlyer project supported by a Government grant.
The company is now working towards a 250-mile zero-emission flight out of an airfield in Orkney before the end of the year.
This is roughly the equivalent of popular short-haul routes such as London-Edinburgh and Los Angeles-San Francisco.
ZeroAvia chief executive Val Miftakhov said: “It’s hard to put into words what this means to our team, but also for everybody interested in zero-emission flight.
“While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon.”
Aviation Minister Robert Courts said: “Aviation is a hotbed of innovation and ZeroAvia’s fantastic technology takes us all one step closer to a sustainable future for air travel.
“Through our ground-breaking Jet Zero partnership we’re working hard with industry to drive innovation in zero-carbon flight, and we look forward to seeing the sector go from strength to strength.”
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Developing aircraft that create less pollution will help the UK make significant headway in achieving net zero-carbon emissions by 2050.
“Backed by Government funding, this flight is another exciting milestone in ZeroAvia’s project.
“It shows that technologies to clean up air travel are now at our fingertips, with enormous potential to build back better and drive clean economic growth in the UK.”
Meanwhile a partnership between the Government and the aviation sector to develop zero-emission flying has announced its membership and ambitions.
The Jet Zero Council will feature leaders from Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Shell, technology and investor groups, Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye and British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz.
Government representatives are Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Mr Courts.
The partnership will focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and “delivering clean growth”, the Department for Transport said.
This will include development of sustainable fuels and both hybrid and electric planes.
On Monday Airbus unveiled concepts for hydrogen-fuelled aircraft it said could enter service by 2035.