Connect Airlines (Bedford, MA) has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Los Angeles-based Universal Hydrogen Co. for the conversion of up to 24 aircraft in the start-up’s fleet to green energy propulsion by 2025, aiming to be “the first zero-emission airline in the United States”.

Under the agreement, Connect Airlines has committed to purchasing 24 of Universal Hydrogen’s hydrogen conversion kits, consisting of a firm order for the retrofit of twelve DHC-8-300s and purchase rights for twelve additional kits of other aircraft types, the companies announced in a statement. “For these aircraft, Universal Hydrogen targets installation of its conversion kits by 2025 and will subsequently supply green hydrogen fuel to the Connect Airlines fleet under a long-term agreement,” they said.

In exchange, the airline has invested in Universal Hydrogen, it disclosed. “In addition to this LOI, we were pleased to participate in Universal Hydrogen’s recent USD62 million financing round,” Connect Airlines' chief executive officer, John Thomas, said.

Universal Hydrogen has developed a conversion kit to retrofit existing regional aircraft with a hydrogen-electric powertrain. It has also developed a system whereby hydrogen can be transported in modular capsules over existing freight networks from production sites to airports around the world.

Connect Airlines is the nascent scheduled brand of Boston-based FAA Part 135 jet charter specialist Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA LLC), which is in the final stages of its certification process to add FAA Part 121 scheduled and non-scheduled services to its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) under the Connect Airlines brand.

Connect Airlines plans to begin service in the Spring of 2022 from Philadelphia International and Chicago O'Hare into Toronto City Centre in Canada with two DHC-8-Q400s leased from Chorus Aviation.