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.”