Air New Zealand, the flag carrier of New Zealand, has unveiled plans to collaborate with four innovators to build its first zero-emissions demonstrator flight.

The partners are VoltAero, Eviation, Beta, and Cranfield Aerospace.

As part of this initiative, a statement of intent to order has been signed.

This is a document that underlines Air New Zealand’s goal to acquire three aircraft initially, with additional options for 20 aeroplanes from one or more of the partners.

Leveraging electric, green hydrogen, and hybrid technologies, the partners will work with the airline to develop the technology and related infrastructure.

The aim is to fly zero-emissions cargo or passenger aircraft from 2026.

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Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said: “Mission NextGen Aircraft is not about backing one innovator. It’s about working with a range of leaders in zero-emissions aircraft technology to help move the whole ecosystem along.

“Our goal is to confirm our commitment with one or more of these partners in the next 12 months with the ambition of purchasing an aircraft for delivery from 2026.

“The learnings we will take from flying an aircraft with next-generation propulsion technology from 2026 will then pave the way for our long-term partners to deliver an aircraft that can replace our Q300 turboprop domestic fleet.”

In addition, the flag carrier reached a strategic partnership with local refuelling infrastructure firm Hiringa Energy in an effort to better understand the infrastructure needed to fly green-hydrogen planes.

Hiringa Energy CEO Andrew Clennett said: “Kiwis will be excited Air New Zealand is taking the lead in identifying zero-emissions aircraft and backing local companies like Hiringa Energy to help overcome the challenges of providing green hydrogen to power them.”