Air New Zealand is partnering with four companies in the fields of electric, green hydrogen and hybrid aircraft to launch its first zero emissions demonstrator flight.
Eviation, Beta, VoltAero and Cranfield Aerospace will work with the airline in the coming years on Mission Gen Aircraft, developing the technology and associated infrastructure required for flying zero emission aircraft from 2026.
The carrier has signed a statement of intent to order for three initial aircraft from one or more of the partners “subject to an evaluation process”. This includes options for a further 20 aircraft.
The airline’s Mission Next Gen Aircraft has two goals:
- Fly the first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026
- Begin to replace the Q300 domestic fleet with a more sustainable aircraft – likely green hydrogen or battery hybrid systems from 2030
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran commented:
“Mission NextGen Aircraft is not about backing one innovator. It’s about working with a range of leaders in zero emissions aircraft technology to help move the whole ecosystem along. 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.
“The learnings we will take from flying an aircraft with next generation propulsion technology from 2026 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’re incredibly ambitious – because we need to be.”
The airline has also signed a strategic alliance agreement with Hiringa Energy, a New Zealand-based green-hydrogen supply and refuelling infrastructure company, to explore the infrastructure required for flying green-hydrogen aircraft.
“While the aircraft play a pivotal role, infrastructure partners are just as important. Through this agreement 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 a larger next generation fleet from the 2030s.”
The airline notes that, while zero emissions aircraft technology will help decarbonise the airline’s domestic network over the period to 2050, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) “is important in the near term for the long-haul fleet”.
For more information on the partners and their comments on the collaboration, see below:
This Washington State-based company develops and manufactures electric aircraft, known as ‘Alice’.
Gregory Davis, president and CEO of Eviation, commented:
“Eviation’s Alice is the first flight-proven all-electric commuter aircraft, leading the world into a new era of carbon-free, cost-effective and convenient aviation.
“I am delighted with Air New Zealand’s endorsement of Alice, which will provide an effective way to decarbonise flights on their many regional routes, and I pay tribute to their commitment to innovation and sustainability. The zero-emissions Alice is a beautiful aircraft and I look forward to seeing it soaring through the skies of New Zealand.”
This company is developing net-zero, all-electric aircraft and a “cross-country, multimodal charging infrastructure” to support various types of electric vehicles.
Kyle Clark, Beta’s CEO and founder, said:
“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.”
This company is developing electric and electric-hybrid aircraft, known as ‘Cassio’, which will be assembled in a purpose-built facility at Rochefort airport in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France.
Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and chief technical officer, commented:
“We’re proud of our selection by Air New Zealand to offer the Cassio aircraft as a unique solution that perfectly responds to the airline’s sustainable fleet ambitions.
“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.”
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS)
This UK-based company is designing and manufacturing zero emissions aircraft. It is focusing on converting a Britten-Norman Islander nine-seat aircraft using conventional fossil fuel to a passenger-carrying aircraft using hydrogen fuel cell technology in 2026.
“At Cranfield Aerospace we are extremely proud to have been selected by Air New Zealand as a Mission Next Gen partner. The airline is renowned in the industry for being a powerhouse of sustainability and given Cranfield Aerospace’s ambition to design and manufacture zero emissions green hydrogen fuelled aircraft, our collective ambitions couldn’t be more aligned.
“We look forward to working with the Air New Zealand team to bring zero emissions flight to their domestic network and help pave the way for the next revolution in aviation.”
Cranfield Aerospace has also partnered with Easyjet to support the development of its hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system for commercial aircraft.