The Ver­ti­cal Flight Soci­ety will be hold­ing the first pub­lic event in the Unit­ed States on the use of hydro­gen and fuel cells for avi­a­tion appli­ca­tions at the end of the month.

The event, the 1st H2-Aero Sym­po­sium & Work­shop, is being held from March 29th to 31st in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia was select­ed as the loca­tion for the event due to the state’s for­ward-look­ing vision and nation­al lead­ing progress to date to sup­port hydro­gen for ground trans­porta­tion. 

The first day and a half of the Sym­po­sium fea­tures ground-break­ing keynote pre­sen­ta­tions by exec­u­tives from air­craft devel­op­ers Air­bus, Bar­ti­ni, Piasec­ki Air­craft and ZeroAvia, as well as hydro­gen com­pa­nies Shell, Plug Pow­er, Uni­ver­sal Hydro­gen and ZEV Sta­tion. The meet­ing will also fea­ture rep­re­sen­ta­tives from acad­e­mia (Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land), a major stan­dards devel­op­ment organ­i­sa­tion (SAE Inter­na­tion­al), pri­vate cap­i­tal invest­ment bank (NEXA Cap­i­tal), and a fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy inno­va­tor (HyPoint).

There will be key nation­al gov­ern­ment agen­cies rep­re­sent­ed to talk of the plans and progress in this area from the US Depart­ment of Ener­gy (DOE) through Argonne Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, as well as the Depart­ment of Defense (DOD) and NASA. Inter­na­tion­al hydro­gen avi­a­tion devel­op­ers will also be speak­ing, includ­ing one of Europe’s key air­craft and space research organ­i­sa­tions, DLR—The Ger­man Aero­space Cen­ter, and air­craft devel­op­er H2Fly.

Mike Hirschberg, VFS’ Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, said: “VFS recog­nised in ear­ly 2020 that hydro­gen fuel cells were near­ing the point of via­bil­i­ty for small elec­tric air­craft, so we formed an H2eVTOL Coun­cil to study the poten­tial. We’ve now ini­ti­at­ed the H2-Aero Team to build on the momen­tum and look towards a demon­stra­tion project that could help accel­er­ate the tran­si­tion to hydro­gen in avi­a­tion.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Cal­i­for­nia gov­ern­ment and the Cal­i­for­nia Fuel Cell Part­ner­ship (CaFCP) will be shar­ing their wealth of expe­ri­ence in zero emis­sion vehi­cles and infra­struc­ture deploy­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. The pres­i­dent of the Mass­a­chu­setts Hydro­gen Coali­tion will also be speak­ing of the hydro­gen & fuel cell devel­op­ments in the North­east.

The after­noon of March 30th will be a kick­off work­shop to gain pub­lic input to finalise the scope of the Ver­ti­cal Flight Society’s H2-Aero Team. The near-term goal of H2-Aero is to devel­op demon­stra­tion project(s) between hydro­gen infra­struc­ture and hydro­gen air­craft, seek­ing to catal­yse a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) to accel­er­ate the decar­bon­i­sa­tion of avi­a­tion. A fur­ther goal would be to lever­age scale and devel­op a roadmap to H2-Hubs at air­ports.  

On the morn­ing of March 31st, there will be tours of the Shell heavy-duty hydro­gen refu­elling sta­tion at the Port of Long Beach, which fuels zero-emis­sion fuel cell elec­tric trucks.

In 2014, the Ver­ti­cal Flight Soci­ety held the world’s first pub­lic meet­ing on eVTOL air­craft, and it has been help­ing to lead eVTOL efforts ever since. With hydro­gen fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy mak­ing rapid advances over the past decade, VFS sees a sim­i­lar, piv­otal moment in avi­a­tion for ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal flight air­craft.

Bat­tery-elec­tric and hybrid-elec­tric ener­gy sys­tems are well known to be heav­ier and larg­er than com­pa­ra­ble fos­sil-fuel based air­craft pow­er­plants. But the capa­bil­i­ty for pow­er-by-wire, dis­trib­uted elec­tric propul­sion, zero tailpipe emis­sions and extreme­ly low noise have engen­dered more than 600 eVTOL con­cepts from 350 design­ers world­wide, as cat­a­loged in the World eVTOL Air­craft Direc­to­ry.

The direc­to­ry is part of the VFS Elec­tric VTOL News web­site,, the world’s first and fore­most online resource on eVTOL air­craft and tech­nol­o­gy. 

Hydro­gen (H2) holds the promise for abun­dant, clean, sus­tain­able ener­gy, with water vapor as the only byprod­uct. How­ev­er, there are many chal­lenges for use in air­craft, includ­ing the cost, weight, vol­ume and com­plex­i­ty, as well as gen­er­at­ing the hydro­gen and trans­port­ing it to the point of need, afford­ably and with­out burn­ing car­bon fuels to do so.

The Euro­pean Union, the Unit­ed King­dom and Chi­na have all announced major gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives to sup­port hydro­gen for avi­a­tion. And the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion has allo­cat­ed $64 bil­lion to expand the hydro­gen infra­struc­ture in the US, though tar­get­ed toward ground trans­porta­tion.

In the past year, sev­er­al tra­di­tion­al air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers — includ­ing Air­bus, Mit­subishi and De Hav­il­land — have part­nered with hydro­gen fuel cell mak­ers to sup­port retro­fit and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of hydro­gen-elec­tric propul­sion sys­tems on exist­ing aero­planes as demon­stra­tors for poten­tial future prod­ucts.

Although ini­tial­ly focused sole­ly on eVTOL, in recent years, VFS has expand­ed its sup­port to elec­tric short take­off and land­ing (eSTOL) and elec­tric con­ven­tion­al take­off and land­ing (eCTOL) air­craft.

The past few years has seen a blur­ring of the lines between rotor­craft — cer­tifi­cat­ed by the US Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion (FAA) under Part 27 and Part 29 air­wor­thi­ness reg­u­la­tions — and oth­er ‘small air­planes’ that are cer­tifi­cat­ed under Part 23. Near­ly all of the eVTOL air­craft devel­op­ers are tar­get­ing FAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a Part 23 ‘small air­plane’ and near­ly all of the sup­port­ing tech­nolo­gies are high­ly com­mon, whether devel­oped for eVTOL, eSTOL and eCTOL. This is also true for hydro­gen fuel cells pow­er plants for small­er Part 23 air­craft. 

When VFS launched the first eVTOL meet­ing in 2014, the idea of VTOL air­craft was greet­ed with wide­spread skep­ti­cism, but grow­ing tech­ni­cal progress, flight demon­stra­tions, gov­ern­ment val­i­da­tion and pri­vate invest­ment have helped reverse pub­lic per­cep­tion. It is now recog­nised that the ver­ti­cal flight mar­ket is poised for sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion over the next few years as eVTOL air­craft enter ser­vice that can have high­er per­for­mance than con­ven­tion­al heli­copters for cer­tain mis­sions, as well as low­er oper­at­ing costs and low­er noise.

VFS helped run the CAFE Foundation’s Elec­tric Air­craft Sym­po­sium (EAS) for the past sev­er­al years and has now tak­en over full respon­si­bil­i­ty for the event. VFS will hold this year’s 16th Annu­al EAS as a hybrid meet­ing from July 23rd to 24th, in con­junc­tion with Air­Ven­ture in Oshkosh, Wis­con­sin, USA.

VFS was found­ed as the Amer­i­can Heli­copter Soci­ety in 1943 by the vision­ar­ies of the ear­ly heli­copter indus­try, who believed that tech­no­log­i­cal coop­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion were essen­tial to sup­port this new type of air­craft. Today, his­to­ry is repeat­ing itself, with VFS play­ing a sim­i­lar role help­ing to advance today’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary elec­tric flight air­craft.

 For more infor­ma­tion on the upcom­ing Hydro­gen Avi­a­tion Sym­po­sium, vis­it