Australia could see its first zero-emissions hydrogen-powered commercial flight by 2026 with the founding of a new Hydrogen Flight Alliance (HFA) between airports, airlines and other organisations.
Queensland-based regional carrier Skytrans is looking to fly between Brisbane and Gladstone using a 15-seat Stralis B1900D-HE, which is a modified Beechcraft 1900D turboprop plane designed and built in Brisbane by Stralis Aircraft. The engines and kerosene fuel system will be replaced by a Hydrogen Electric Propulsion System (HEPS) and liquid hydrogen storage tank, which will emit only water vapour.
“We are proud to be leading the nation in developing its hydrogen industry and we want to play a leading role in showing that this technology can work in aviation,” said Skytrans Chief Executive Officer Alan Milne.
Stralis is set to begin test flights of its hydrogen-powered Beechcraft Bonanza demonstrator aircraft in South-East Queensland from 2024. Bob Criner, Co-Founder & CEO of Stralis Aircraft, said the HFA – launched in Brisbane on Thursday – will provide vital support to these efforts.
“The HFA allows us to answer the most common question we hear from airline customers, which is how they will access affordable green hydrogen at airports in future. This is not a problem we can solve on our own, it requires industry collaboration,” he said.
Aside from Stralis Aircraft and Skytrans Airlines, members of the HFA include Brisbane Airport, Gladstone Airport, Aviation Australia, BOC, H2 Energy Company (h2ec), Griffith University, and Central Queensland University. Its stated aim is to “ensure Australia plays a leading role in the aviation industry’s transition towards net-zero by 2050”.
Queensland’s Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, the Honourable Mick de Brenni MP, said the state’s developing green hydrogen industry makes it an ideal place to test out hydrogen-powered flight.
“Queensland’s green hydrogen industry is the next frontier in a world hungry for renewables and is our greatest climate, jobs, and economic opportunity in a generation,” said Mr de Brenni.
“Green hydrogen will be a game changer in decarbonising heavy haulage, shipping, manufacturing, and aviation, while also slashing emissions, helping tackle climate change and safeguarding natural tourism wonders for generations to come.
“As the nation’s most decentralised state, this new alliance has an incredible opportunity to put Queensland in the cockpit to pilot the nation’s aviation clean energy revolution.”
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to airlines, with Qantas pushing for more use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from agricultural waste, and Rex taking a 20 per cent stake in electric aviation firm Dovetail.
Airbus last year partnered with Perth-based renewable energy company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to collaborate on the development of hydrogen-focused low emission solutions for the aviation sector, in a deal aimed at supporting the entry-into-service of Airbus’ ZEROe hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035 to help achieve net-zero emissions targets.