MIAMI – While electric aircraft seem to be in the news lately, there is more going on in the movement to make aviation green.

Airbus and Air New Zealand (NZ) have signed a Memo of Understanding (MoU) to jointly investigate how aircraft might someday be powered by the most abundant element in the universe: hydrogen. A press release yesterday discusses how the two companies will work together to investigate the possibilities of creating zero-emission flights.

The document says that NZ will take the lead in analyzing the impact hydrogen aircraft may have on its network, operations, and infrastructure. Airbus will forge ahead and look at hydrogen aircraft performance requirements and ground operations characteristics to support NZ in developing its decarbonization roadmap.

Air New Zealand 777-300 ZK- DKP. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Goal: Zero Emission

“This agreement brings us a step closer to our net zero emissions by 2050 commitment, and to realizing our aspiration to put low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade,” said New Zealand CEO Greg Foran. “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 and our highly connected regional air network.”

“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 research will help to inform future decision making as we work to decarbonize the airline.”

The airline goes on to say that the MoU allows the airline to be part of the design and discussion on how exactly hydrogen-powered aircraft might fit into airline operations. “This research will help to inform future decision making as we work to decarbonize the airline.”

“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,” airline officials said.

Air New Zealand 777-300ER. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Joint Goals

Airbus Asia-Pacific President Anand Stanley says the company is working with NZ because of its commitment to sustainability, reputation for technical excellence, and how NZ’s goals align with the manufacturer’s decarbonization goals.

“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.

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

Featured image: Air New Zealand Airbus A321neo. Photo: James Kirkland/Airways