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New Zealand to Conduct Research in Developing Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft By 2030

Air New Zealand and a leading aircraft manufacturer have announced a joint initiative to research how hydrogen-powered aircraft could be integrated into the fleet by 2030. The two organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a joint research project to better understand the opportunities and challenges of flying zero-emission hydrogen aircraft in New Zealand – a first for the Asia-Pacific region.

Under the terms of the agreement, Air New Zealand will assess the impact of hydrogen aircraft on its network, operations, and infrastructure, while the manufacturer will provide hydrogen aircraft performance requirements and ground operations characteristics to assist Air New Zealand in developing its decarbonisation roadmap. The MoU, as per the Air New Zealand CEO, is an exciting step toward understanding how hydrogen-powered aircraft could become a reality in New Zealand.

This agreement with Air New Zealand will provide us with important insights about how we could put a zero-emission aircraft into service. The joint study will enable us to gain invaluable feedback on what airlines will expect and their preferences in terms of configuration and performance.

– Air New Zealand, Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer

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. It was felt that the \agreement brings the nation closer to seeing low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade.

At this stage, it has been confirmed, that both hydrogen and battery electric aircraft are still viable as potential options for shorter domestic flights along with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for long haul operations. It is hoped that the research will help to inform future decision making as the company works towards net zero emissions by 2050.

OpenGov Asia reported in an article that New Zealand’s Climate Change Commission was established as a result of the Climate Change Response (Zero-Carbon) Amendment Act to advise the New Zealand Government on actions that will reduce carbon emissions and help the country meet its 2050 net-zero and low-emissions goals. The Climate Change Commission opened submissions in February this year to draught the advice, and among the submitters were both of New Zealand’s airlines, who support the move toward decarbonisation.

Wellington and Blenheim are preparing to ‘electrify their airports,’ laying the groundwork for commercial electric flights. Three twenty-seat electric passenger aircraft have been ordered by the regional airline. With the delivery of these planes not expected until 2026, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the necessary chargers are in place in time for the handover.

The Chief Commercial Officer for Wellington Airport said the travel hub is committed to assisting the airline to make history in getting the runway ready to handle the demands of electric aircraft. He felt that the Wellington to Blenheim route was an excellent candidate for the new technology as it has a 30-minute sector length matching the capability of carbon zero aircraft. The chairman of the airline says the news brings the company closer to its ambition to be the first airline in the world to achieve a fully electric fleet.

Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer Captain also acknowledged that the MoU provides an opportunity for the airline to participate in the design and definition of how a hydrogen-powered aircraft might fit into its operations. They plan to work closely with the global manufacturer to better understand opportunities and challenges, including achievable flying range and what ground infrastructure or logistics changes may be required to implement this technology in the country.

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