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June 16, 2024
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Air New Zealand has expanded its search for the best sustainable aircraft for its regional operations by announcing new long-term partnership agreements with ATR, Embraer, Heart Aerospace, and Universal Hydrogen. While keeping all options open, the partnerships should provide ANZ with all information that is needed to make a decision on the replacement of its De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300s by 2030. Air New Zealand expands net-zero coalition for future aircraft.

Called Mission NextGen Aircraft, announced agreements in December with four start-ups for new-generation aircraft: Eviation, VoltAero, Beta, and Cranfield Aerospace. All are developing small electric aircraft for up to ten passengers. Air New Zealand signed a “statement of intent to order” with each of them, leading to a down-selection to one or more partners and the purchase of a single aircraft to start zero-emission demonstrator flights by 2026.

With the latest agreements announced this week, Air New Zealand makes a step-change in aircraft size. Like the long-term agreement with Heart Aerospace, which is developing the hybrid-electric ES-30 30-seater for entry into service in 2028.

The agreement with Heart is not an aircraft order. “Having Heart Aerospace as one of our long-term partners will grow our collective understanding of zero emissions aircraft technology as it develops and will give them the confidence, they are developing a product that’s viable for us,” says Kiri Hannifin, ANZ’s Chief Sustainability Officer. But the size comes closer to what looks like the best solution for regional travel at a certain scale.

ATR

Air New Zealand also announced a long-term agreement with ATR, a well-known partner as the airline operates 29 ATR 72s. The two will work together on accelerating the introduction of low-emission technology aircraft to New Zealand. For this, ATR is offering a feasibility study of its new turboprop aircraft, the EVO. This aircraft was announced in May last year, but ATR will only launch it by the end of the year.

ATR hasn’t disclosed what kind of propulsion it has selected for the EVO. Stephane Viala, senior vice president of engineering until his recent departure to Ascendence Flight Technologies, told AirInsight last July that ATR was looking for a mild-hybridization of the EVO, which would get all-knew engines that should cut carbon emissions by twenty percent or even by 82 percent when using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) or e-fuels. 

But in the press release this week, ANZ’s Kiri Hannifin includes other technology options that the airline will study with Airbus and ATR: “Through our partnerships with Airbus and ATR we’ve been able to deepen our understanding of the impact green hydrogen and battery hybrid aircraft may have on our network, operations, and infrastructure, as well as the opportunities and challenges of flying low and zero emissions aircraft in New Zealand. Working with the world’s leading innovators is critical to addressing the climate crisis. These partners were selected because they are taking action now to progress decarbonizing the aviation industry.”

Universal Hydrogen

The application of hydrogen is part of ANZ’s long-term partnership with Universal Hydrogen. And this also makes perfect sense. Universal is developing its hydrogen capsule and fuel cell concept for use on the ATR but will start flight testing it soon on a Dash 8-300 demonstrator. Precisely that aircraft type of which Air New Zealand has 23 that it wishes to replace. Universal has been granted the experimental airworthiness certificate to start ground tests, followed by flight tests soon afterward out of Moses Lake.

Universal Hydrogen CEO Paul Ermenko said in a media statement: “As the second-largest turboprop operator in the world, Air New Zealand is a trendsetter for the industry. We fully expect other airlines to follow in Air New Zealand’s footsteps toward a true zero-emissions solution for their fleets. We’re thrilled to be selected alongside Air New Zealand’s other long-term partners—Airbus, ATR, Embraer, and Heart Aerospace—to quickly address aviation’s contributions to the climate crisis.”

Embraer

The fourth new partner for Air New Zealand is Embraer. The airline has joined the Energia Advisory Group of over twenty airlines, lessors, and manufacturers, which offer advice to Embraer on the Energia technology program for sustainable aircraft that should enter service early next decade. Embraer said in December that it is focusing on the development of two hybrid-electric and hydrogen aircraft with between nineteen and thirty seats.

It was copy-paste in the ANZ press release when it comes to the “growing understanding” that the partnership with Embraer offers to the airline and “gives them confidence” to the airframer. Embraer President and CEO of Commercial Aircraft, Arjan Meijer, said: “Smaller, regional aircraft are going to be the first platforms on which new fuel and propulsion systems can be introduced effectively. Embraer looks forward to contributing to Air New Zealand’s initiative and also adding their expertise and requirements into Embraer’s Energia project.”

Hydrogen Consortium

ANZ also announced a new partnership with Airbus on February 10 to form the new Hydrogen Consortium in New Zealand. Together with Fortescue Future Industries, Hiringa Energy, Fabrum, and Christchurch Airport, the consortium will support the deployment of aircraft powered by green hydrogen. Airbus’ role is to engage with partners within and outside the aviation community to assess what is needed for the operation of LH2-powered aircraft.

Air New Zealand and Airbus first announced in September 2021 as an MoU. The airline will offer expertise to Airbus on the development of its ZEROe hydrogen project in the same way as other airlines like easyJet, SAS, and United Airlines do.

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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