The zero-emission flight is closer to reality than ever, with Air New Zealand and aircraft manufacturer Airbus today announcing a joint initiative to research how hydrogen-powered aircraft could be part of their fleet by 2030.
In a first for the Asia-Pacific region, Air New Zealand and Airbus have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cooperate on a joint research project to better understand the opportunities and challenges of flying zero-emission hydrogen aircraft in Aotearoa.
Under the MoU, Air New Zealand will analyse the impact hydrogen aircraft may have on its network, operations and infrastructure, while Airbus will provide hydrogen aircraft performance requirements and ground operations characteristics to support Air New Zealand to develop its decarbonisation roadmap.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says the MoU is an exciting step towards understanding how hydrogen-powered aircraft could become a reality in New Zealand.
“New Zealand has a unique opportunity to be a world leader in the adoption of zero-emissions aircraft, given the country’s commitment to renewable energy which can be used to generate green hydrogen and our highly connected regional air network.
“This agreement brings us a step closer seeing low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade.
“At this stage, both hydrogen and battery electric aircraft are still on the table as potential options for our shorter domestic flights, along with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for long haul operations.
“This research will help to inform future decision making as we work towards net zero emissions by 2050.”
Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan says the MoU is an opportunity for the airline to be part of the design and definition of how a hydrogen-powered aircraft might fit into its own operations.
“We’ll be working closely with Airbus to understand opportunities and challenges, including achievable flying range and what ground infrastructure or logistics changes may be required to implement this technology in New Zealand.”
Airbus Asia-Pacific President Anand Stanley says the company chose to work with Air New Zealand because of its commitment to sustainability, reputation for technical excellence and alignment with the manufacturer’s own decarbonisation goals.
“This agreement with Air New Zealand will provide us with important insights about how we could put a zero-emission aircraft into service.
“The joint study will enable us to gain invaluable feedback on what airlines will expect and their preferences in terms of configuration and performance.
The news comes a year after Airbus revealed its three futuristic concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft, including a turboprop, turbofan and blended wing option.
All three of the concepts released last September rely on hydrogen as a primary power source – an option that Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.
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