ASL Aviation Holdings has signed an agreement with start-up ZeroAvia (Hollister) to explore the conversion of ASL's Avions de Transport RĂ©gional turboprops to hydrogen power, with a possible order of up to ten conversions down the line.

"This deal with ZeroAvia's further strengthens ASL's commitment to being a first-mover in the introduction of new emissions reduction technology in our current fleet. ZeroAvia will support us in the provision of cargo services and vital connectivity in an environmentally sustainable way without having to wait for the introduction of new aircraft types. It's critical for ASL that we take immediate steps to reduce our carbon footprint, and ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric powertrain will allow us to operate cost-effective regional freight services using existing aircraft that are now powered by traditional turbines," Chief Executive Dave Andrew said.

The Irish holding will provide one of its retired ATR72 freighters as a testbed and demonstrator aircraft for the ZA2000 Powertrain hydrogen-powered propulsion system. ZeroAvia said the engine type would produce up to 2 to 5 MW of power and would potentially be a suitable conversion option for all aircraft carrying up to 40-90 passengers. It added that the system would be optimised for ATR equipment.

ASL said it hoped to begin commercial operations of hydrogen-powered ATR freighters in 2026. The holding told ch-aviation that it had yet to identify the aircraft that would be used for tests.

The ch-aviation fleets ownership module shows that ASL Aviation Holdings, as a group, owns two ATR72-200(F)s dry-leased to South Africa's Solenta Aviation (SET, Lanseria). ASL Airlines Ireland (ABR, Dublin Int'l) owns four ATR72-200(F)s (one stored and three in operation), two active ATR72-500(F)s, and a single active ATR72-600F while ASL Airlines Switzerland owns a further three ATR72-200(F)s, including two operated by the Irish unit and one by ASL Airlines UK (ABV, East Midlands).

ZeroAvia is not planning to develop its own aircraft types but will rather focus on repowering existing types with hydrogen. It plans to bring a hydrogen-powered propulsion system for 19-seat aircraft to market by 2024. The start-up's investors include British Airways (BA, London Heathrow). It recently signed a partnership with Alaska Airlines (AS, Seattle Tacoma Int'l) to work on a hydrogen conversion for another large turboprop type, the DHC-8-Q400.