A hydrogen-electric midsize business jet could soon become a reality if French start-up Beyond Aero successfully implements its plans.
The company announced its vision for the BYA-I aircraft at the Paris Airshow, targeting entry into service around 2030. The jet is designed to carry four passengers on trips exceeding 800 nautical miles at speeds of 310 knots.
Over the past 18 months, Beyond Aero has been actively developing its hydrogen fuel cell-based powertrain, culminating in the successful testing of an 85-kilowatt subscale technology demonstrator. The next phase involves the development of a 1-megawatt class propulsion system, featuring a pair of electric-powered ducted fans positioned at the rear of the fuselage.
Initially, the BYA-I will utilize gaseous hydrogen stored in tanks located below the cabin. However, Beyond Aero has plans to transition to liquid hydrogen in the future. Eloa Guillotin, the company’s founder and CEO, explains that while the jet is currently marketed as a reduced-carbon aircraft, the ultimate goal is to utilize completely green hydrogen, with pink hydrogen derived from nuclear power seen as a desirable fuel source for aviation.
In the pursuit of strategic partnerships, Beyond Aero will announce fuel supply agreements with airports in France and other European countries. The company, as a member of the Alliance for Zero Emission Aviation, also plans to establish similar arrangements with U.S. airports. Notably, the BYA-I is designed to operate from runways as short as 2,800 feet, enhancing its accessibility.
The BYA-I’s design incorporates distinctive features such as a half-moon-shaped air inlet at the rear of the fuselage to cool the powertrain. Beyond Aero holds two patents for its innovative concepts, the other being the placement of fuel tanks in a fairing under the fuselage to maximize cabin space. The company aims to certify the aircraft under the existing CS-23 rules set by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Since its establishment in December 2020, Beyond Aero has raised approximately $10 million in funding. As part of the Y Combinator start-up accelerator, the company aims to attract further investments. Notably, it has garnered support from the France 2030 government fund and the Ami-Maele program of the Occitanie region.
With signed letters of intent for potential orders of 72 aircraft valued at $580 million, Beyond Aero demonstrates promising market interest. While the company has not disclosed the identities of prospective customers, it suggests that existing business aircraft operators seeking to decarbonize their fleets could be among them.
The advent of a hydrogen-powered business jet represents a significant stride in countering negative perceptions of private aviation’s environmental impact. Activists have long criticized the sector for contributing to environmental damage. In a recent incident at the EBACE business aviation trade show, protestors breached the static display area, causing disruption and damage. The introduction of hydrogen-electric aircraft could help reshape public opinion and provide a sustainable solution for the future of business aviation.