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Air New Zealand launches wide range of UAM and AAM industry programmes

Air New Zealand has launched its Next Gen Aircraft programme “to accelerate the development of zero emissions aircraft technologies and the infrastructure required to make these a reality for commercial aviation in New Zealand.”  Four industry partners have been identified: Evation, Cranfield Aerospace, VoltAero and BETA.

Mission Next Gen Aircraft has two goals: fly the first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026; begin replacing the Q300 domestic fleet with a more sustainable aircraft – likely green hydrogen or battery hybrid systems from 2030.

“These goals follow the Product Requirements Document (PRD) released in December 2021, which saw more than 30 aircraft developers respond with ideas and insights to guide the technology development,” said the airline in a press release. “What became clear from the PRD is the technology isn’t advanced enough for us to make a decision yet around what aircraft we will use to begin to renew our retiring Q300 fleet come 2030.  The PRD process emphasised that to accelerate the advancement of new aircraft technology, airlines have a significant role to play and need to approach relationships with aircraft suppliers and new startups in a more collaborative open way.  It also highlighted how perfectly suited our network and New Zealand are to adopt zero emissions aircraft due to the short-range routes and electricity network being largely built on renewable energy.

“The next three years will be focused on supporting the building, testing, and certifying of aircraft and associated infrastructure,” said the airline. “The learnings we will take from flying an aircraft with next generation propulsion technology from 2026 will pave the way for our long-term green hydrogen and battery hybrid partners to deliver an aircraft that can replace our Q300 domestic fleet.”

“…..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.”

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) was announced as the sole hydrogen-powered aircraft partner of Air New Zealand’s Mission Next Gen Aircraft. If successful, CAeS will carry out commercial demonstration in 2026 and beyond with the airline signing a letter of intent for three aircraft to fly the commercial demonstrator operation with an addition option for 20 aircraft. Phase 1 of CAeS’ roadmap to produce zero-emissions aircraft is “Project Fresson” – the conversion of a Britten-Norman Islander 9-seat aircraft from conventional fossil fuel to that of gaseous hydrogen propulsion.

Air New Zealand has also signed a Letter of Intent for up to 23 Eviation Alice Aircraft under the Mission NextGen Aircraft Program. The move makes it the first national flag carrier to commit to Eviation’s Alice aircraft, with the first demonstration flights slated for 2026.

“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.

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