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Next generation aircraft technology encompasses aircraft designs including battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen combustion and hybrid concepts. Hydrogen, battery and hybrid technologies are still under development by aircraft manufacturers and innovators. However, we expect to see this technology mature and be a possibility for Air New Zealand from 2030 on shorter domestic and regional flights.
New Zealand is uniquely placed to lead the world in the deployment of next generation aircraft. Our domestic network is ideally suited to adopt next generation aircraft with a number of short-range routes suited for early aircraft demonstration and New Zealand's largely renewable electricity grid allowing for cost effective infrastructure to be established.
Mission Next Gen Aircraft is a project created to accelerate the development of next generation aircraft technology and the infrastructure required to make these a reality for commercial aviation in New Zealand.
Mission Next Gen Aircraft has two ambitious goals:
1. Fly the first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026
2. Begin replacing the Q300 domestic fleet with a more sustainable aircraft – likely green hydrogen or battery hybrid systems from 2030
These goals follow the Product Requirements Document (PRD) released in December 2021, which saw more than 30 aircraft developers respond with ideas and insights to guide the technology development.
What became clear from the PRD is the technology isn’t advanced enough for us to make a decision yet around what aircraft we will use to begin to renew our retiring Q300 fleet come 2030. The PRD process emphasised that to accelerate the advancement of new aircraft technology, airlines have a significant role to play and need to approach relationships with aircraft suppliers and new startups in a more collaborative open way. It also highlighted how perfectly suited our network and New Zealand are to adopt next generation aircraft due to the short-range routes and electricity network being largely built on renewable energy.
The next three years will be focused on supporting the building, testing, and certifying of aircraft and associated infrastructure. The learnings we will take from flying an aircraft with next generation propulsion technology from 2026 will pave the way for our long-term green hydrogen and battery hybrid partners to deliver an aircraft that can replace our Q300 domestic fleet.
As part of the airline’s 'Mission Next Gen Aircraft' announced late last year, Air New Zealand has opened an Expression of Interest (EOI) to airports around the country as part of selecting a route to fly its commercial demonstrator aircraft from 2026.
The airline is looking for airports who are wanting to further support the decarbonisation of aviation and are motivated to take on a leadership role in developing the infrastructure required to fly this technology. The EOI sets out the operational requirements that need to be considered including factors like range.
It’s important to note all airports around Aotearoa will continue to play an important role in this project so when the time comes to introduce these aircraft at scale, all airports we fly to are well prepared. Further over the next few years as Air New Zealand works towards its ambition of flying next generation aircraft on our domestic network from 2030, we will be focused on supporting the building, testing, and certifying of aircraft and associated infrastructure.