Air New Zealand and Airbus working towards zero emissions aircraft

September 16, 2021
Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand and Airbus have announced a joint initiative to research how hydrogen-powered aircraft could be part of their fleet by 2030.

Air New Zealand said that in a first for the Asia-Pacific region, the two organizations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on a joint research project to better understand the opportunities and challenges of flying zero-emission hydrogen aircraft in New Zealand.

Under the MoU, Air New Zealand will analyze 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 decarbonization roadmap.

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Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran said 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 to 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 said 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 said 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 decarbonization 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.

Airbus is currently looking at three concepts for hydrogen-powered aircraft, including a turboprop, turbofan, and blended wing option.