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Air New Zealand Explores Lower-Emissions Technology for Turboprops

Air New Zealand recently announced it has outlined requirements to suppliers as part of plans to replace its fleet of De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q300 turboprops with lower-emissions technology by around 2030. The ideal candidate aircraft will be a drop-in replacement for the Q300 for seamless integration into the existing Air New Zealand turboprop network, which may include retrofit of the existing aircraft.

This month, the national carrier issued a zero-emissions aircraft product requirements document (PRD), outlining specifications and requirements for new-generation aircraft. The PRD says the airline aims to find long-term partners in developing “novel propulsion” which refers to emerging technology including hydrogen/battery-electric, hydrogen combustion, or hybrid. The focus of the PRD is on its domestic turboprop fleet which produces about 7% of total emissions.

According to a news report, one option the airline is exploring is retrofitting existing turboprop aircraft with novel propulsion technology. Air New Zealand currently operates 52 turboprops made up of 23 Q300 aircraft and 29 ATR72-600 aircraft. These are the likely candidates for replacement with novel propulsion technology. The airline targets having a firm order placed on a 1-9 seater zero-emissions aircraft by 2023 and taking delivery in 2025. This option covers technology that is currently in development, likely at the ground testing phase but moving quickly towards the first flight in the next 24 months with commercial certification underway. These aircraft could be used for freight, training, and single lines of flying.

As per another report, the plan to seek proposals by March 2022 comes as companies pour more resources into developing cleaner turboprop technology to help airlines meet a challenging industry-wide target of net zero emissions by 2050. The airline has outlined three phases of adoption. The early adoption stage from 2023-25 would see work conducted with electric or hybrid/electric aircraft. A private equity-owned company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) recently with a hydrogen-electric-engine developer to create line production and retrofit programmes for its turboprop models that could be certified this decade.

In the second stage from 2026-2030, Air New Zealand aims to have “supplementary” zero-emissions aircraft ranging from one to 50 plus seats. The types of missions will ideally be passenger services however freight concepts are also of interest especially if the aircraft progression is targeted at a later passenger version. By 2031-2035 it would look to buy a new technology replacement fleet. The PRD explained that the organisation aims to be a global leader in driving a shift to novel propulsion aircraft with an entry to service before 2030.

The airline has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft as a key pillar in its sustainability strategy. However, the airline acknowledged that even with the full deployment of aviation decarbonisation technologies, including electric, hybrid, and hydrogen-powered aircraft, and sustainable aviation fuel, there is no current technology mix that could enable the industry to absolutely decarbonise by 2050.

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