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PARIS: Airbus is poised to build a technology demonstrator for future hydrogen airplanes by mid-decade in co-operation with engine maker CFM International, industry sources said.
The planemaker has scheduled a news conference with “key engine partners” for 1400 GMT on Tuesday on the latest milestone in its plans to develop a zero-emission aircraft.
Airbus declined to comment. CFM, jointly owned by General Electric and Safran and the world’s largest jet engine maker by number of units sold, also declined to comment.
The project is expected to feature a specially adapted version of current-generation engines in order to advance research on the project, which is part of global efforts to curb emissions in aviation, the sources said.
Airbus has said it will produce a small “ZEROe” passenger aircraft powered by hydrogen to enter service in 2035.
It told the European Union a year ago that most airliners will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050, according to a briefing made public last June.
Even so, Airbus officials say the research will seed disruptive technology likely to play a role in the next generation of larger airplanes, as well as offering radically new technology for small planes holding some 50-100 people.
Boeing has so far been cooler toward hydrogen and placed greater emphasis on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
In a sign of growing alignment with Airbus on alternative technologies, CFM said last year a separate next-generation jet engine called RISE, which it hopes to offer for larger jets from 2035, would be capable of running on fuels including hydrogen.
Airbus has said it will choose the final type of product for the “ZEROe” decarbonized plane project in 2025. It expects to narrow down the choice of concept as early as mid-2022.
Chief Executive Guillaume Faury was quoted earlier this month by Welt am Sonntag as saying Airbus could go it alone and make engines for its future hydrogen-fueled planes.
But Faury played down the prospect of Airbus moving into engine-making at a results presentation last week, telling reporters it “would require a change of strategy, and I have not indicated that we have changed our strategy on that one.”
He said working with partners on the next generation of technology is theoretically possible “and it’s not something we would rule out completely, but more looking at it case by case.” (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jan Harvey)
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