A UK aviation consortium has released a comprehensive study on the carbon-free future for UK domestic aviation by 2040.

According to the study, passengers across the UK could be flying in zero-emission aircraft over the next two decades.

The consortium includes Heathrow (LHR); London City (LCY); Highlands and Island Airports (HIAL), and three manufacturers, including GKN Aerospace; Rolls-Royce; and Cranfield Aerospace, and three academic institutions, namely UCL; Cranfield; and Southampton.

It is also supported by EasyJet, British Airways, Loganair and Deloitte.

According to the study released, hydrogen-fuelled aircraft have the potential to revolutionise the future of flight.

GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce are responsible for developing the hydrogen-fuelled aircraft concepts.

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These concepts show that 40-90 seater passenger aeroplanes with the potential to fly up to 1,400 nautical miles could be used on UK’s domestic route and into Europe by the next decade.

It will be based on a model developed by UCL. 

The first hydrogen-powered flights, currently being developed by Cranfield Aerospace, could enter operations by 2026, with London City Airport having the ability to run a completely zero-emission domestic network between 2035 and 2040.  

It is estimated that by 2040, Heathrow could welcome 90-seat zero-emission aeroplanes utilising sustainable aviation fuels from airports throughout the UK.  

The University of Southampton analysis suggests that airports including Inverness (INV) and London City airports could witness an overall noise reduction, thereby helping local communities. 

The report also states that the UK aviation industry could need 300,000t of green hydrogen to cope with future demand by 2040.

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions chief strategy officer Jenny Kavanagh said: “The goal of this project was to ascertain whether a carbon-free aviation system could be economically viable in the UK. The answer to that question is yes, it is possible and within our power to achieve.

“We in the consortium stand ready to work with the [UK] Government, with industry, and with partners globally from all sectors so that we can meet the clear and present environmental challenge, continue to connect people and places, and position the UK at the vanguard of clean aviation.”