Air New Zealand (NZ, Auckland International) has signed a statement of intent to order three zero-emissions commuter aircraft within 12 months with options for 20 more. Eviation Group, Beta, VoltAero, and Cranfield Aerospace last week signed up for the airline's Mission NextGen Aircraft program which has the goal of operating a zero emissions demonstrator flight by 2026.

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran says the airline choose to partner with these companies based on how developed their aircraft plans are and a need to consider a combination of electric, green hydrogen, and hybrid aircraft rather than focusing exclusively on one development stream.

"Mission NextGen Aircraft is not about backing one innovator," said Foran. "It's about working with a range of leaders in zero emissions aircraft technology to help move the whole ecosystem along. 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."

Air New Zealand has also signed a strategic agreement with New Zealand-based green-hydrogen supply and refuelling infrastructure company, Hiringa Energy. Foran says developing infrastructure partners is as important as developing next-generation aircraft suppliers if the carrier is to meet its goal of operating green aircraft on short-haul regional routes by the next decade.

"Regional flights make up a sizeable proportion of Air New Zealand's routes. The Alice offers an effective way to decarbonize these journeys, revolutionizing air travel and supporting the goals of the Mission NextGen Aircraft program," said Gregory Davis, President and CEO of Eviation (Arlington, WA), manufacturers of the nine-seater all-electric Alice aircraft.

“Our selection by Air New Zealand is an important confirmation of VoltAero’s pragmatic and realistic approach to developing the Cassio aircraft family," said CEO Jean Botti. Volt Aero's three electric-hybrid aircraft range from the five-seat Cassio 330 to the 12-seat Cassio 600.

"(Air New Zealand) is renowned in the industry for being a powerhouse in sustainability and given Cranfield Aerospace's ambition to design and manufacture zero emissions green hydrogen-fuelled aircraft, our collective ambitions couldn’t be more aligned," said Cranfield CEO Paul Hutton. UK-based Cranfield Aerospace is the sole hydrogen-powered aircraft partner in Air New Zealand's latest push towards achieving its 2050 net zero emissions target.

"The learnings we will take from flying an aircraft with next-generation propulsion technology from 2026 will then pave the way for our long-term partners to deliver an aircraft that can replace our Dash 8-300 turboprop domestic fleet," said Foran. "Getting a zero-emissions aircraft off the ground by 2026 is going to be challenging. But we're incredibly ambitious."