Zero-emission propulsion technology is bound to first make its mark on regional air travel. While one of the challenges posed by this is the potentially tricky infrastructure upgrade to airports further afield, their smaller size also offers a great opportunity for innovation and experimentation.

Meanwhile, AGS Airports, which owns and operates Aberdeen (ABZ), Glasgow (GLA), and Southampton (SOU) airports, has teamed up with hydrogen fuel-cell developer ZeroAvia to explore the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure and regulatory framework requirements, as well as the opportunities for hydrogen production onsite.

Commercial flights sometime after 2024

Under the agreement announced on Wednesday, the two parties will look at the resourcing required for delivering zero-emission, hydrogen-powered flights from the AGS’s two Scottish airports in Aberdeen and Glasgow. ZeroAvia will share its experience in developing and operating its Hydrogen Airport Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) at Cotswold Airport (GBA) in Gloucestershire, while AGS will also explore how hydrogen can be used to remove emissions across airport ground operations.

The collaboration will work towards a demonstration flight from ABZ using ZeroAvia’s ZA600 hydrogen-electric powertrain, which is intended to be certified in 2024 in commercial operation as early as 2025. Intentions are to begin operating commercial flights from Glasgow Airport shortly thereafter.

Arnab Chatterjee, Vice President of Infrastructure at ZeroAvia, said,

“In recent months we have stepped up our work with airports significantly to better understand the operational needs and requirements for hydrogen as a fuel. Working with the team at AGS allows us to plan for some of the commercial routes that we will be able to support in a little over two years’ time, and do so in the setting of a major international airport.”

ZeroAvia has also made agreements for trial projects with airports in California and Canada.

rendering zeroavia hydrogen-powered aircraft

Photo: ZeroAvia

Hydrogen “increasingly viable option”

AGS Airports has made a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the next decade. Switching several short-haul routes to hydrogen-powered flights would take it some way toward its target, significantly reducing the airports’ Scope 3 carbon emissions.

Derek Provan, Chief Executive Officer at AGS, commented on the partnership and the potential for hydrogen across his airports’ networks,

“The development of hydrogen-powered aircraft has the potential to completely revolutionise aviation and it is becoming an increasingly viable option for regional and short-haul aircraft. As a regional airport group serving the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as well as the Channel Islands from Southampton, AGS will be the perfect testbed for hydrogen flight. Through our partnership with ZeroAvia we’ll address some of the challenges associated with the generation, delivery and storage of hydrogen on-site and how we can prepare our infrastructure to support zero-emission flights.”

Regional airports do indeed have the potential to become testbeds for aviation decarbonization. Beyond the zero-emission accessible range of regional air travel, with less traffic, they have more space to maneuver various projects around. They will also need to offer a wide range of low-carbon solutions infrastructure. As AGS’s Director of Communications and Sustainability, Brian McClean, stated earlier this year,

“At Glasgow, we have got everything from the Twin Otter through to the A380, so we are going to have to cater for hydrogen-electric and SAF.”

Would you be willing to hop on a hydrogen-powered turboprop in a few years’ time? Leave a comment below and tell us why or why not.


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