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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Boeing makes first ever hydrogen battery flight

OCANA, Spain (AFP) - US aircraft maker Boeing flew a plane that was powered by a hydrogen battery at the start of 2008 for the first time in aviation history, senior company officials said in Spain on Thursday.

"For the first time in the history of aviation, Boeing has flown a manned airplane that was powered by a hydrogen battery," Boeing chief technology officer John Tracy told a news conference at the firm's research centre in the central Spanish town of Ocana.

The plane, which used propellers, flew at a speed of 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour for about 20 minutes at an altitude of about 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) using only the hydrogen battery for power, Boeing said in a statement.

The director of the Ocana research centre, Francisco Escarti, said the hydrogen battery "could be the main source of energy for a small plane" but would likely not become the "primary soruce of energy for big passenger planes".

"The company will continue to explore their potential as well as that of all durable sources of energy that boost environmental performance," he said.

Tracy said the development was "a historical technological success for Boeing" and was "full of promises for a greener future".

"Boeing recognizes that pollution represents a serious environmental challenge," he added.

Amid rising fuel costs and mounting concerns over climate change, airlines are keen to find ways to cut their energy bills and the pollution which they emit.

Boeing's first new model in over a decade, the Dreamliner, used high-tech composites which reduces its weight and which the company says will make it consume 20 percent less fuel then similar-sized planes already on the market.

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