Although I have a private pilot’s license, it’s been some years since I’ve had enough coinola in the bank to do anything with it. (The most I ever managed to do was rent a plane once in a while to go for a local pleasure flight. Or, more frequently, rent a plane to go up and do some practice touch-and-go landings. Still, I always loved it.)
I think all the time about taking it up again sometime. But one thing that’s always bothered me is the additional air pollution you create when you go up in a small plane. It’s not like they’re awful—but they don’t have catalytic converters to clean up the exhaust, and for that matter, most of them burn leaded fuel. (Necessary to keep the cylinders cool.)
So I was cheered today when I got my email newsletter from AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), which had a news item titled: “Environmentally Friendly Aircraft To Take Flight This Year.” It seems Boeing is working on a fuel-cell powered airplane! Here’s an excerpt:
An emission-free experimental aircraft, powered only by a fuel cell and lightweight lithium-ion batteries, could take flight this year. Boeing researchers and industry partners in Europe announced the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project on March 27. The aircraft is currently undergoing systems integration testing to prepare for ground and flight testing. The aircraft uses a proton exchange membrane fuel cell, which converts hydrogen directly into electricity and heat without combustion, and lithium-ion batters to power an electric motor with a conventional propeller. The fuel cell will provide all of the cruise-flight power, while the batteries will power takeoff and climb phases of flight. Francisco Escarti, managing director of Boeing Research and Technology–Europe, said that the fuel cell and batteries likely won’t power a commercial passenger airliner, but that “demonstrations like this help pave the way for potentially using this technology in small manned and unmanned air vehicles.”
Now, that’s the airplane I want to win in a sweepstakes!