ZeroAvia Hydrogen Powered Jets for American Airlines?

A ZeroAvia hydrogen powered aircraft in flight.
Photo Credit: ZeroAvia

LONDON – American Airlines – one of the largest US airlines and One World alliance giant – is looking into converting to hydrogen-powered regional jets in a partnership with ZeroAvia.

American Airlines has invested an undisclosed amount of money into the hydrogen-propulsion system developer ZeroAvia, and hints that it will adopt the eco-friendly powered hydrogen-powered jets for its fleet of regional workhorses, performing domestic flights throughout the United States. 

American Airlines & ZeroAvia

On August 3, the airline signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with ZeroAvia, a California-based start-up. The carrier plans to order up to 100 of its hydrogen powertrain systems to propel its regional jets. 

The Californian aircraft manufacturer ZeroAvia is prepping itself for the test flight, of its flagship powertrain, the 600-kW ZA600 hydrogen-electric engine. This powertrain can be used to convert a 19-seat aircraft, with the ability to fly up to 300 miles (480 km) and begin revenue services by the year 2024.

In fact, the company has larger ambitions, where it is also expecting to have larger two-to five- megawatt ZA2000 power trains. This means aircraft with the ability to seat up to 80 passengers, with a flight range of up to 700 nautical miles or 1,100 kilometres. 

With much excitement surrounding the news, Zero Avia has unfortunately declined to name which specific power train American Airlines have chosen, or the logistics of the conversions of the existing airframes will be conducted.

Significantly, in May of this year, ZeroAvia announced a strategic partnership with MHI RJ Aviation Group, a Mitsubishi company, which the Japanese firm has acquired the Canadian Bombardier’s CRJ Series.

Mitsubishi, now provides maintenance, engineering, airworthiness certification support, aircraft refurbishment, aircraft management, marketing, and sales. American Airlines uses these jets for its regional operations. 

Nearly 2,000 of the 50- to 100-seat aircraft were made for customers between the years 1991 and 2020. This in fact poses an opportunity for Zero Avia to offer conversion services for customers wishing to operate on clean energy. 

Moreover, the Californian company announced that they have received a further $30 million from new investors from heavyweights, including IAG (International Airline Group), which controls British Airways and Iberia, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines also pitched in.

This week alone, Zero Avia has raised more than  $150 million in total, including $68 million from the Series B round. Speaking on the partnership, American Airlines CFO Derek Kerr stated that:

“Our investment in ZeroAvia’s emerging hydrogen-electric engine technology has the potential to play a key role in the future of sustainable aviation. We are excited to contribute to this industry development and look forward to exploring how these engines can support the future of our airline.”

American Airlines appreciates the investments they have made in Zero Avia, as by 2050, the airline will hopefully become carbon neutral, and a leader in green, clean and sustainable aviation. 

American Airlines is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In the short term, it is working to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuel and has received validation from the Science Based Targets Initiative for its interim 2035 emissions reduction targets.

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