Air New Zealand seeks partners to help create zero emissions aircraft

Air New Zealand planes
"We believe New Zealand could be a world leader in zero or low emissions aircraft." Photo credit: Getty Images

Air New Zealand is calling call for entrepreneurs and innovators as well as traditional aircraft developers to help it achieve a zero emissions turboprop aircraft in the next five years.

The company has released a guide for anyone interested in working with it to help achieve the target of net zero by 2050 to help mitigate against climate change.

Air NZ's head of fleet strategy Baden Smith claimed it's taking bold steps to ramp up genuine climate action and reducing aircraft emissions is critical. 

"While our industry faces a steep challenge to decarbonise, New Zealand is uniquely placed to lead the world in zero emissions aircraft and low carbon alternatives on our domestic air transport network," Smith said.

"We believe New Zealand could be a world leader in zero or low emissions aircraft, whether that's battery electric or green hydrogen powered. We're seeking the best ideas and technology from innovators around the globe who might be prepared to work with us."

The short-range routes as well as Aotearoa's renewable energy sources also makes it ideally suited to adopting zero emissions aircraft, Smith said. 

According to the guide, the airline can offer potential partners a number of options from formal collaborations to data and analysis already carried out related to zero emissions aircraft. It also suggests that funding could be unlocked via joint applications as well as supplying older turboprop aircraft for retrofitting to act as demonstrator planes.

The company's turboprops accounted for around seven percent of its emissions in 2019.

The short-term focus is on aircraft with between one and nine seats, with hybrid electric or electric powered planes, likely for freight and training. From 2026 the focus will move more to passenger aircraft, with 10 to 50 seat aircraft targeted by 2030 and hydrogen combustion being added as a potential source of energy.

The target from 2030 to 2035 then becomes bigger aircraft with replacement of the existing turboprop fleet with more than 50 seats.

"The ideal candidate aircraft will be a drop in replacement for the Q300 for seamless integration into the existing Air New Zealand turboprop network, which may include retrofit of the existing aircraft," the company said.