Air New Zealand and aircraft manufacturer Airbus have announced a joint initiative to research how hydrogen-powered aircraft could assist the airline with reaching its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
In what is said to be a first for the Asia-Pacific region, the two organisations 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 the country.
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 help the airline develop its decarbonisation roadmap.
A step closer to airline’s emissions commitment
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Greg Foran, said the MoU was an exciting step towards understanding how hydrogen-powered aircraft could become a reality in the country.
“This agreement brings us a step closer to our net zero emissions by 2050 commitment, and to realising our aspiration to put low-carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade,” he stated.
“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.”
Foran added: “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 to decarbonise the airline.”
Study of required infrastructure and logistics
According to the airline’s Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer, Captain David Morgan, 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,” Morgan said.
Hydrogen-powered aircraft produce zero CO2 emissions and, depending on the technology used, can substantially reduce or even eliminate air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, as well as helping prevent contrail formation.
Airbus’ announced in 2020 that zero-emission commercial aircraft based on hydrogen could enter into service by 2035.