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Air New Zealand has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to study the feasibility of hydrogen-powered aircraft in New Zealand.

Both companies will cooperate on a joint research project “to better understand the opportunities and challenges of flying zero-emission hydrogen aircraft in New Zealand”, the carrier states.

Air New Zealand says it will analyse the impact such aircraft will have on its network, operations and infrastructure.

Airbus will provide hydrogen aircraft performance requirements and ground operations characteristics. A year ago, the European airframer rolled out three aircraft concepts, including a blended-wing option.

Underpinning the research project — the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific — is Air New Zealand’s efforts to decarbonise in the long-term.

Airline chief Greg Foran hints that the carrier could use “low carbon solutions” on its short haul network, which include domestic and regional operations.

“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.

“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 for long-haul operations. This research will help to inform future decision making as we work towards net zero emissions by 2050,” says Foran.

On the partnership, Airbus Asia-Pacific president Anand Stanley adds: “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 chief Guillaume Faury in March said a 2035 service-entry for such zero-emission aircraft is credible, as work towards hydrogen power presses on.

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