Air New Zealand buys all-electric ALIA plane, has options for two more

Air New Zealand said on Wednesday it had ordered one of US-based BETA Technologies' all-electric five-seat ALIA planes as its first next-generation aircraft as part of a longer-term plan to lower carbon emissions on short domestic flights.

The New Zealand flag carrier has a firm order for one ALIA and options for two more, as well as rights for another 20 aircraft, it said in a statement.

As part of a larger goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, Air New Zealand wants to conduct a zero-emissions commercial demonstrator flight by 2026.

It would then start replacing its 50-seat De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q300 turboprops that fly short domestic routes, with lower-emissions aircraft from 2030.

Seeking to lower its climate footprint, the global aviation industry is relying on the development of sustainable aviation fuel and next-generation aircraft that use electric, hybrid and hydrogen propulsion technologies. "This purchase marks a new chapter for the airline," Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said of the ALIA in a statement.

The aircraft will initially operate a cargo-only service in partnership with New Zealand Post, the airline said.

It would start by flying routes of about 150 km with the 12 m long ALIA, which weighs three metric tons and can fly up to 270 km per hour.

The fixed-wing plane can fit five passengers and one pilot in a passenger configuration, according to BETA's website.

The planemaker said in March it was pursuing US Federal Aviation Administration certification of the aircraft, which flew more than 480 km in one flight during testing.

BETA is a privately-held company founded in 2017 and based in the US state of Vermont.

Air New Zealand has also been working with Eviation, VoltAero and Cranfield Aerospace on developing next-generation aircraft.