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 in 2026.
A combination of electric, green hydrogen, and hybrid aircraft, these partners will work alongside Air New Zealand over the coming years to focus on developing the technology and associated infrastructure required to make flying these aircraft in New Zealand a reality.
These partnerships involve Air New Zealand signing a “statement of intent to order”, a document that demonstrates its ambition to acquire three aircraft initially, with further options for 20, from one or more of the partners subject to an evaluation process.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says the airline selected these partners based on their stage in their aircraft development journey and their shared goal of starting to take ambitious action on climate change.
“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. 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 pave the way for our long-term partners to deliver an aircraft that can replace our Q300 turboprop 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 understand further the infrastructure required to fly 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, focusing 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,” Mr Foran says.
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.
SAF is a ‘drop-in’ fuel that 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 jets, with the opportunity to generate significant CO2 savings.
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 New Zealand.
“Kiwis will be excited. Air New Zealand is taking the lead in identifying zero-emission aircraft and backing local companies like Hiringa Energy to help overcome the challenges of providing green hydrogen to power them,” Mr Clennett says.
Aircraft Partner Quotes
“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,” said Gregory Davis, President, and CEO of Eviation.
“I am delighted with Air New Zealand’s endorsement of Alice, which will effectively decarbonise flights on their many regional routes. 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.”
“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,” said Kyle Clark, BETA’s CEO and Founder. “Air New Zealand is stepping up, and we will be right here with them to make it a reality.”
“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,” said Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and Chief Technical Officer.
“Cassio provides outstanding safety and versatility through the propulsion system’s dual source of electric-hybrid energy. Additionally, Cassio’s configurable cabin and the propulsion system’s adaptability to biofuels and hydrogen for its thermal engine open Air New Zealand’s regional network to next-generation clean, quiet and efficient aeroplanes.”
“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. 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.”