France Marks First Crewed Hydrogen-Electric Flight


French startup Beyond Aero has announced it flew a crewed LSA-sized demonstrator aircraft based on a ULA G1 using a hydrogen-electric propulsion system. It’s the first step in eventually creating a hydrogen-powered business aircraft. The little plane, dubbed the Bleriot, took off from Gap-Tallard, France, in early January with test pilot Paul Prudent at the controls. After a lap around the field, Prudent went on to complete an initial flight test program that included 10 takeoffs and landings and two longer flights over the next six weeks to validate the 85-kW propulsion system.

The motor was powered using a ratio of two-thirds gaseous hydrogen to one-third on battery power. It stores 1.2 kg of hydrogen in three onboard tanks compressed to almost 5,000 psi. “This successful flight test campaign underscores the feasibility of the manufacturer’s powertrain architecture, with the goal of making possible, certifiable and profitable, the first electric business aircraft designed for hydrogen propulsion within the decade,” the company said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. The United States was the first to fly a powered aircraft but the airplane as we know it today was really invented by the French. Good for them to pursue H2 powered flight.

    HFC is a better power source than batteries which as the hard stop for functional airplane development. Still, it’s expensive, heavy and unnecessarily complex as the internal combustion engine and a tank of gas is superior in most metrics and has already been invented.

    The electric motor is superior to the piston engine in many ways, but it can’t effectively be powered by batteries in an airplane. Batteries barely work in cars where weight is not very important. HFC may be a compromise, but as I say still not better than a tank of fuel.

    • “a tank of gas is superior in most metrics and has already been invented.”

      In that case all attempts at developing new technologies are ill conceived. Shame on the Wright Brothers for their attempts at innovation. Motorized transportation, safer and with range longer than a mere few feet had already been invented by that time.

      • Electric and hydrogen pre-date gasoline as a power source.
        They are not “new technologies” at all.
        What is ill conceived is thinking that either electric or hydrogen have never been tried or developed or researched or given a fair chance. Combining 2 technology losers together and calling it “a success” is almost laughable.

        • Sorry A J Foyt (not the Indie winner). My apologies. I forgot. You’re the fount of all knowledge in everything. I should have checked with you first

          • Snark invites snark, John. I doubt that our Mr. Foyt has won too many independent film awards (“Indies”) but he may, in fact, be the “A J Foyt” who won 67 “Indy” car races, we don’t really know.

            Regardless, your “information-free” response does not add anything salient to your argument, so effectively, you lose.

          • The video is over-the-top funny; mimicking a cross between a space launch and a Formula 1 win.

            The salient point is that without a truly massive infrastructure investment at airports, what good is a certified H2 airplane?

    • It’s one of the European knockoffs, probably made by ICP. Zenith high wings all have Junkers style flaperons. The corners of the empennage are way too rounded off to be a Zenith. The Zeniths with front and rear wing struts also all have fixed leading edge slats, all moving vertical tail surfaces, and asymetric horizontal staibilizers.

    • It is a G1, from G1 aviation. All Made in France, (except for the motor). Inspired by Zenith, but has actually evolved over the years into something different, mainly in having a re-inforced cabin, more glass and tweaks to the wings. Good reputation.
      Assuming the hydrogen was for a fuel cell?

  2. Nearing 77, ain’t going less it’s behind a Lycoming. All three of my aerial chariots are so powered and see no application in my lifetime that would fulfill the mission requirement of two of my aerobatic airplanes. However, I wish the new generation of aviators all the best in finding and effectively using alternative energy and motive sources.

      • Tip of the iceberg. Now imagine airports stacked with high pressure hydrogen storage tanks having an accident. Every “line boy” would need to be trained in cryogenics, high pressure, and spark suppression.

  3. The energy density of hydrocarbon fuel (BTUs of energy vs weight) will not be replaced by this technology, EVER. This is a college level engineering project at best. Also storing a highly flammable, hard to contain gas under 5000 psi has a few drawbacks, to say the least. There will not be a viable commercial aircraft powered by this system. Let’s expand our oil industry to economically power future aviation.

  4. When I was born I couldn’t crawl, walk or run. Took a long time before I could do any of that. It’s the same with the development of alternate energy sources but it will come.

  5. Love the drama of the video! The film-makers must have had fun with it. Great that so many smart people around the world are finding ways to allow humanity to maintain the lifestyle we currently enjoy without destroying ourselves in the process. Technology never stands still (unless mandated by the FAA, sorry, couldn’t resist) so will be fascinating to see how things develop over the next decade or so.

  6. You guys are forgetting that there are places in aviation that electric motors are required and that gas motors cannot respond quick enough for any kind of copter stabilization. There is definitely a place for fuel cells in aviation, maybe not the part you are thinking of , but there are many other applications that it does fit.

  7. Great Video…even if it follows the same sequence as every other new aviation product reveal. (stirring music, slow introduction, victorious flight, crew/staff celebration, slow fade). As for the technological achievement…obviously the prototype operated successfully. The question of where it will lead to is without answers at this point, as several commenters have pointed out (wider applications, abilities to scale up, infrastructure challenges, etc.). And, yeah, the aircraft does show it’s Zenith roots or heritage.

  8. I was hoping the hydrogen was produced onboard on demand so the batteries could be eliminated. Then we could stop our development and buy their system over the counter. Hydrogen is nearly impossible to contain without leaks. After all the expense related to hydrogen, it is a great energy source.

  9. I’m glad there are still inventors and engineers pursuing hydrogen as a fuel. In a lot of ways hydrogen fuel makes sense.

    A kilogram of hydrogen has about the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. And it weighs, you guessed it, 2.2 pounds, much less than the 6 pounds for a gallon of gas. So, if you can build storage tank that weighs less than 3.8 pounds for each kg of hydrogen stored, you’re ahead of the game, at least on takeoff. A safe, light weight, and practical fuel tank is the missing technology.

    Reports are that hydrogen can currently be manufactured for about $4 per kg. Not bad compared to $6.75 for a gallon of Avgas at my local field. There are expectations that new nanotechnology catalysts may drive that price down closer to $2 per kg. That would be a game changer.

    One prediction that was made back when the hydrogen economy was the next big thing was that hydrogen would not need to be trucked or piped anywhere because, if there was water and electricity available it would be made at the point of sale or of use. Hasn’t panned out yet, but never say never. We live in interesting times.