16 Sep 2021

Air NZ investigates viability of hydrogen-powered aircraft

10:45 am on 16 September 2021

Air New Zealand is teaming up with aircraft manufacturer Airbus to explore the viability of adding hydrogen-powered passenger planes to its fleet by 2030.

Hydrogen plane concept image

A concept image of a hydrogen fuelled plane. Airbus is looking at three concepts; a turboprop, turbofan and blended wing option. Photo: Supplied / Airbus / Air New Zealand

The two organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on a research project to better understand the pros and cons of flying zero-emissions aircraft in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand would analyse the practicalities of having hydrogen aircraft on its network, while Airbus would provide aircraft with the performance requirements to meet the country's needs.

"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," Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said.

"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 agreement brings the airline a step closer to seeing low-carbon solutions in place for its shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade, he said.

Chief Operational Integrity and Safety officer Captain David Morgan said the partnership with Airbus provided it with a chance to have say on how a hydrogen-powered aircraft might fit into its 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 told Morning Report international hydrogen-powered flights would be technologically challenging.

Airbus Asia-Pacific president Anand Stanley said it chose to partner with Air New Zealand because of its commitment to sustainability and reputation for technical excellence.

"This agreement with Air New Zealand will provide us with important insights about how we could put a zero-emission aircraft into service," he said.

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