Air New Zealand is set to revolutionize mail delivery in New Zealand with the introduction of a futuristic electric cargo plane, marking a significant step in the country’s commitment to decarbonizing aviation.
The five-seater ALIA electric cargo plane, acquired from US aerospace firm Beta Technologies, represents a key step toward achieving zero-emission passenger flights, symbolizing a “new age of propulsion.”
Scheduled to start operations in 2026, the ALIA aircraft, with a length of approximately 12 meters and a weight of three tonnes, boasts a battery-powered, all-electric design. Capable of reaching speeds up to 270 km/h, it operates similarly to traditional airplanes, taking off and landing conventionally. With a cargo capacity of 560kg, it is designed for the efficient distribution of parcels and letters.
While capable of covering distances over 480 km, practical considerations limit its use to routes of approximately 150 km within New Zealand. Recharging the battery takes 40-60 minutes, a slightly longer process compared to refueling traditional aircraft. Air New Zealand is currently planning initial flight routes, incorporating specialized charging cubes at airports for efficient recharging between runs.
Air New Zealand’s CEO Greg Foran looks forward to deploying larger electric planes for domestic routes and is considering green hydrogen and hybrid-electric options as technology evolves. At the same time, Australia’s aviation industry faces climate challenges. Rex Airlines explores zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells, while Qantas and Virgin Australia focus on biofuel.
A CSIRO report predicts sustainable aviation fuel could power most Australian domestic flights by 2050. Virgin Australia’s push to amend emissions laws aligns with the industry’s shift towards greener fuel for international flights, a crucial step as travel surges post-pandemic, increasing aviation’s carbon footprint.
In the United States, efforts are underway to develop zero-emissions aircraft. Surf Air Mobility Inc. (NYSE:SRFM), as the largest commuter airline in the U.S. by scheduled departures, is at the forefront of reshaping regional air travel with its commitment to electrification.
Transforming Regional Flying Through Electrification
Surf Air Mobility Inc. (NYSE:SRFM), headquartered in Los Angeles, is a regional air mobility platform aiming to redefine regional air travel by harnessing the potential of electrification.
Surf Air Mobility is seeking to significantly lower the cost and environmental footprint associated with air travel. The company is collaborating with commercial partners to advance powertrain technology, facilitating the electrification of current fleets and the widespread introduction of new electric aircraft to the market. The management team boasts extensive knowledge and proficiency in aviation, electrification, and consumer technology.
Surf Air Mobility just entered into an agreement with Purdue University to launch a privately subsidized commuter air service between West Lafayette/Purdue University Airport (LAF) and Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD). The anticipated start date for this scheduled commuter air service is early in the second quarter of 2024. Purdue University will contribute funding to support the program’s establishment and ongoing operations, aiming to provide easier and faster connections for students, faculty, staff, families, and the community between West Lafayette and the fourth busiest airport in America, Chicago O’Hare.
The flight operations for this program will be managed by Southern Airways Express, an airline subsidiary of Surf Air Mobility. The collaboration seeks to offer up to four daily flights, eliminating the need for a lengthy drive by allowing travelers arriving at O’Hare to fly directly to West Lafayette.
This initiative is similar to Surf Air Mobility‘s existing federal contracts through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which operates subsidized routes to connect communities lacking minimal air service. The partnership with Purdue University mirrors the EAS model but with a private institution, eliminating the necessity for federal funding, and brings much needed air service to an underserved regional airport.
Surf Air Mobility’s CEO Stan Little expressed excitement about the program with Purdue University and sees it as a potential model for collaboration with other non-urban universities and private companies in the future. Little believes that partners like Purdue University will play a crucial role in advancing Regional Air Mobility, connecting smaller regional airports to the national air infrastructure.
The agreement outlines 24 weekly round-trip flights, marking the reintroduction of scheduled air service on this route after nearly two decades. Southern will operate the flights using Cessna Grand Caravan turboprop aircraft with nine passenger seats and two pilots. Passengers from West Lafayette will enjoy a seamless connection experience at the hub, thanks to Southern’s interline and distribution agreements with United, American, and Alaska. Ticket purchases can be made on major airline websites, including United.com, AA.com, and AlaskaAir.com.
Purdue University will contribute by providing the use of its refurbished passenger terminal, hangar space, and ramp access for Southern’s personnel. Additionally, Southern will offer job opportunities to qualified students both before and after graduation. Purdue will have the opportunity to recoup some, or all, of its investment should passenger counts exceed projected levels.
Featured Image @ FreePik
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