Air New Zealand has announced four world-lead­ing inno­va­tors it will be work­ing with on its mis­sion to have its first zero emis­sions demon­stra­tor flight, either car­go or pas­sen­ger, take to the skies from 2026.

Com­bin­ing elec­tric, green hydro­gen, and hybrid air­craft, the four part­ners are Evi­a­tion, BETA Tech­nolo­gies, VoltAero and Cran­field Aero­space. They will work along­side Air New Zealand over the com­ing years to focus on devel­op­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and asso­ci­at­ed infra­struc­ture required, which will involve Air New Zealand acquir­ing three air­craft ini­tial­ly, with fur­ther options for 20.

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran com­ment­ed: “Mis­sion NextGen Air­craft is about work­ing with a range of lead­ers in zero emis­sions air­craft tech­nol­o­gy and our goal is to con­firm our com­mit­ment with one or more of these part­ners in the next 12 months, with the ambi­tion of pur­chas­ing an air­craft for deliv­ery from 2026.

“This will then pave the way for our long-term part­ners to deliv­er an air­craft that can replace our Q300 tur­bo prop domes­tic fleet. Get­ting a zero emis­sions air­craft off the ground by 2026 is going to be chal­leng­ing, but we are ambi­tious because we need to be.”

Com­ment­ing on this lat­est announce­ment, Kyle Clark, BETA’s CEO and Founder, added: “Air New Zealand has a long his­to­ry of embrac­ing inno­va­tion and tak­ing action toward change, and the world needs glob­al thought lead­ers like this to make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in the cli­mate cri­sis right now. Air New Zealand is step­ping up and we will be right here with them to make it a real­i­ty.”

Jean Bot­ti, VoltAero’s CEO and Chief Tech­ni­cal Offi­cer, said: “Cas­sio pro­vides out­stand­ing safe­ty and ver­sa­til­i­ty through the propul­sion system’s dual source of elec­tric-hybrid ener­gy. Addi­tion­al­ly, Cassio’s con­fig­urable cab­in – along with the propul­sion system’s adapt­abil­i­ty to bio­fu­els and hydro­gen for its ther­mal engine – opens Air New Zealand’s region­al net­work to next-gen­er­a­tion air­planes that are clean, qui­et and effi­cient.”

Sus­tain­able avi­a­tion fuel (SAF) is impor­tant in the near term for the long-haul fleet, a ‘drop in’ fuel which can pow­er cur­rent air­craft, so it can reduce emis­sions for long haul trav­el and domes­tic flights while the air­line con­tin­ues to oper­ate con­ven­tion­al air­craft. The inputs and process­es used to make SAF result in low­er life­cy­cle emis­sions than fos­sil fuel jet.

The air­line has also signed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing (MoU) with Hiringa Ener­gy, a New Zealand-based green hydro­gen sup­ply and refu­el­ing infra­struc­ture organ­i­sa­tion.

Hiringa Ener­gy Chief Exec­u­tive Andrew Clen­nett says the agree­ment is key to accel­er­at­ing the devel­op­ment of hydro­gen as a sus­tain­able and renew­able zero emis­sion fuel for both the air­line and for New Zealand.

He said: “Kiwis will be excit­ed Air New Zealand is tak­ing a lead in iden­ti­fy­ing zero emis­sions air­craft and back­ing local com­pa­nies like Hiringa Ener­gy to help over­come the chal­lenges of pro­vid­ing green hydro­gen to pow­er them.”

Foran added: “We will explore the future green hydro­gen sup­ply solu­tions for our com­mer­cial demon­stra­tor ambi­tions with a focus on ensur­ing any solu­tions we cre­ate to meet our 2026 goal are also build­ing a plat­form for larg­er next gen­er­a­tion fleets from the 2030s.”