UH2 wins FAA approval to fly Dash 8 hydrogen-electric testbed
Photo credit: Universal Hydrogen
Universal Hydrogen (UH2) received an FAA experimental airworthiness certificate for its De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 flying testbed, clearing the way for its first flight fitted with a megawatt-scale hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system.
The 1-megawatt powertrain demonstrator is installed in a modified nacelle with large air inlets on either side to cool the fuel cells, supplied by Plug Power, and electric motor, supplied by MagniX. As its first product, Universal Hydrogen (UH2) is developing a 2-megawatt powertrain for retrofit to the ATR 72-600 regional airliner. Work on the ATR conversion is underway in Toulouse.
Airbus, Air New Zealand team up on zero-emissions regional aircraft
Photo credit: Airbus
Airbus has deepened its engagement with Air New Zealand on hydrogen-fueled aviation by forming a consortium to evaluate ways to deploy hydrogen hubs at airports, starting with a case study at Christchurch. Partners include Christchurch International Airport, renewable energy company Fortescue Future Industries, hydrogen refueling infrastructure provider Hiringa Energy, and hydrogen liquefaction and storage specialist Fabrum.
Airbus is one of five manufacturers and startups working with Air New Zealand on its Mission Next Gen Aircraft plan to replace its domestic fleet of De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q300 turboprops with more sustainable aircraft from 2030.
The consortium will work together to understand hydrogen-powered aircraft concepts and operations, hydrogen supply, infrastructure and fueling requirement at airports to support development of a hydrogen aviation ecosystem in New Zealand.
Airbus will contribute findings on aircraft features and operating concepts from its ZEROe initiative to develop technologies for a liquid-hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft that could enter service in 2035.
Azul Conecta orders six Ampaire Eco Caravans
Photo credit: Ampaire
California-based electric aircraft developer Ampaire and Brazilian LCC Azul’s regional subsidy Azul Conecta signed a letter of intent for six upgrade kits to retrofit Cessna Grand Caravans with hybrid-electric propulsion systems. Azul Conecta operates a fleet of 24 Caravans to more than 84 destinations across Brazil. Azul Conecta and Ampaire also announced plans to collaborate toward developing charging infrastructure across Conecta’s eight bases and at other airports it serves, which they said could potentially be ordered to other Eco Caravan operators throughout South America. Ampaire is aiming for FAA supplemental type certification in 2024 and expects the Eco Caravan to be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service. The company’s first prototype made its maiden flight in November 2022, although the aircraft is not yet in the final certification configuration.
Pratt & Whitney Canada, ATR partner on SAF
Photo credit: ATR/Pratt & Whitney Canada
Pratt & Whitney Canada and ATR will collaborate to achieve 100% SAF readiness in PW127 series engines by 2025, including the new PW127XT. The collaboration will be underway throughout 2023 and 2024 and builds on ATR’s recent 100% SAF test flight with Braathens Regional Airlines.
Alaska Airlines eliminates inflight plastic cups
Photo credit: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines completed the transition to paper cups for inflight beverages, a move that eliminates more than 55 million plastic cups annually and replaces them with a more planet-friendly alternative. Combined with Alaska’s Boxed Water partnership, these changes eliminate 2.2 million pounds of plastic waste from landfills every year, the equivalent weight of 24 Boeing 737s. All inflight beverages on Alaska flights are now served in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper cups or reusable glassware for most First-Class services.
Air France-KLM, Teesside Airport enter into SAF agreement
Photo credit: Teesside Airport
Teesside Airport, located in Darlington, became the first UK airport to partner with Air France-KLM’s program to boost the use of SAF, which currently makes up less than 1% of fuel used on commercial flights. This new program is allowing the airline to partner with organizations and companies such as Teesside Airport to accelerate the production, adoption and usage of SAF transitioning from traditional fuels and reducing the CO2 footprint of air travel.
The program also supports Teesside’s own plans to ensure the airport’s buildings and infrastructure hit net zero before the decade is out. A new Net Zero Strategy for the region also details how the airport aims to use SAF to achieve Net Zero flights by 2035.
Australia invests $2.1 million into Dovetail Electric Aviation
Photo credit: Dovetail Electric Aviation
The Australian government gave an A$3 million ($2.1 million) grant to startup Dovetail Electric Aviation to support development of technology for the conversion of turbine-powered regional aircraft to electric propulsion. The government grant will support an A$12.8 million project running to the end of March 2025 to develop, flight test and certify the electric propulsion conversion, initially in the Cessna Caravan. The conversion is planned to eliminate emissions and reduce operating costs by up to 40%.
LanzaJet to supply SAF to India
Photo credit: LanzaJet
Indian energy company and aviation fuel producer IndianOil signed an MOU with Illinois-based SAF technology company LanzaJet to explore the development of SAF production in India. The partnership will pursue large-scale production in India using LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) process, which converts ethanol from waste sources into SAF. LanzaJet’s first ATJ plant is planned to be operational in the US this year. LanzaJet and IndianOil are working toward expanding the partnership with a joint venture in India to deploy the ATJ technology. As a country, India has committed to net-zero emissions by 2070, but its airlines have signed up on the aviation industry’s target of net zero by 2050.
Lufthansa, Varo partner on SAF production
Photo credit: Atmosfair
Lufthansa Group signed an MOU with European energy company Varo covering the production and supply of SAF. Varo plans to produce 86 million gal. per year from 2026 with a long-term target of 165 million gal. annually. The companies plan to scale up the production of green hydrogen from biogenic feedstock such as sewage sludge. The hydrogen could then be used to produce synthetic kerosene, or e-fuel, using the power-to-liquid (PtL) process favored by European airlines.
PtL production is still in its infancy. Lufthansa Group is a partner and pilot customer of one the first PtL plants, which opened in Wertle, Germany, in October 2021. The airline plans to purchase 6,600 gal. of SAF over five years from the plant, which is operated by non-profit organization Atmosfair.
Texas plant to be upgraded for SAF production
Photo credit: Diamond Green Diesel
SAF producers in the world when capacity comes online, expected in 2025. Darling Ingredients and Valero Energy have made the final investment decision on the $315 million project at the Port Arthur, Texas, plant owned and operated by their joint venture Diamond Green Energy (DGD). On completion of the project, DGD’s Port Arthur plant will have the capacity to upgrade approximately 50% of its 470 million gal. per year renewable-fuel production capacity to SAF.
As the industry looks to a net-zero emissions future, some airlines and aircraft manufacturers are partnering with hydrogen-electric propulsion developers and sustainable aircraft fuel (SAF) producers to meet environmental goals.
Linda Blachly is Senior Associate Editor for Air Transport World and Aviation Week. She joined the company in July 2010 and is responsible for producing features for Air Transport World’s monthly magazine and engaging content for the aviationweek.com. She is based in the Washington DC office.