Icelandair Group, Ravn Alaska (7H, Anchorage Ted Stevens), and Air Nostrum (YW, Valencia Manises) have signed Letters of Intent (LOIs) with Universal Hydrogen, a US start-up developing conversion kits replacing turboprop engines with hydrogen powerplants using easily exchangeable fuel cells.

The Icelandic holding signed an LOI for an undisclosed number of kits for its fleet of Dash 8 aircraft. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Air Iceland Connect currently operates three DHC-8-Q200s and two DHC-8-Q400s under its parent's brand Icelandair.

"Universal Hydrogen’s work across both fuel logistics and services as well as aircraft conversions would allow us to accelerate our pursuit of a fully decarbonised domestic fleet," Icelandair Group President and CEO Bogi Nils Bogason said, pledging that the group would be "an early adopter that could bring hydrogen-powered Dash 8s to our skies in the next several years."

Ravn Alaska committed to purchasing five conversion kits for its De Havilland Aircraft of Canada turboprops. It currently operates ten DHC-8-100s and one DHC-8-300. It also recently tentatively signed for 50 electric short-take-off-and-landing (eSTOL) aircraft under development by California's Airflow.

"At Ravn, we love the Dash 8 family of aircraft for their durability and suitability to our rugged region. These aircraft enable us to provide exceptional service to the many far-flung communities across Alaska. It’s essential that as Ravn grows and air travel returns, our business decisions are made with sustainability top of mind. With this partnership, we are able both to reduce the carbon impact of our aircraft and improve their operational efficiency," said CEO Rob McKinney.

Air Nostrum signed up for eleven conversion kits for its "current and future" fleet. The airline's current turboprop fleet comprises eleven ATR72-600s.

None of the carriers disclosed any further plans, including a potential timeline for deployment.

Universal Hydrogen was founded and is headed by former Airbus technology chief Paul Eremenko. The start-up focuses on replacing Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines with new powerplants powered by hydrogen fuel cells. It aims to develop the initial conversion kit so that it will become a model adopted by other suppliers and create a sizeable market for exchangeable fuel cells. In an interview with Reuters, Eremenko likened the model to that used by Nespresso, which developed a standardised coffee maker utilising single-use capsules, which are now manufactured to the same specifications by many companies. Universal Hydrogen hopes to bring its conversion kits to the market by 2025.

Simultaneously, Icelandair Group also signed an LOI with Swedish electric 19-seater manufacturer Heart Aerospace (Gothenburg City). It did not, however, even tentatively commit to buying a specific number of its ES-19 aircraft.