Skytrans, the Australian-based carrier with the backing of former NRL luminary Johnathan Thurston, has announced its trailblazing initiative to integrate hydrogen electric-powered aircraft into their operations. This unprecedented move sets the stage for Skytrans to potentially become the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.
Vanguard of commercial hydrogen flight
Skytrans has committed to operating a commercial flight from Brisbane to Gladstone using a 15-seat Stralis B1900D-HE aircraft starting from 2026. If all proceeds as planned, the only emission from this approximately 75-minute flight would be pure water vapour.
The pioneering initiative forms part of the recently formed Hydrogen Flight Alliance (HFA), a joint effort involving Skytrans, Stralis, Brisbane and Gladstone airports, academic institutions, gas firm BOC Pacific, and H2 Energy.
Dawn of hydrogen-powered testing
Before the onset of passenger flights Stralis will initiate tests of its ground-breaking technology in six-seat, hydrogen electric-powered Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft beginning next year. These trials aim to provide valuable hands-on experience in the operation and refuelling of hydrogen-powered aircraft.
At the heart of this innovative project’s success lie the burgeoning green hydrogen developments currently underway in Brisbane and Gladstone. Brisbane Airpor, strongly supports HFA’s goal to decarbonise aviation. Executive general manager of governance and sustainability Raechel Paris emphasised Queensland’s considerable number of regional flights makes it the perfect proving ground for zero-emission aircraft.
Drive towards a decarbonised future
In a global push towards sustainability airlines worldwide have set a lofty goal: Achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Skytrans flights aim to serve as a blueprint for more extensive use of hydrogen-electric aircraft, ideally ahead of the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics in Queensland.
HFA, as part of their commitment to a climate-positive event, intends to transport athletes around Queensland using emission-free aircraft. Nonetheless, challenges remain regarding the availability and cost of green hydrogen, as well as the required airport supply infrastructure.
Collaborative leap towards a greener aviation industry
Tackling these issues and assuaging customer concerns about affordable access to green hydrogen is a shared endeavour, according to Stralis Aircraft CEO Bob Criner.
Skytrans, originating from Cairns and seven Dash-8 aircraft on routes to Cape York and Torres Strait Island communities, is jointly owned by Thurston and pilot Peter Collings plus steered by ex-Qantas executive Alan Milne. Milne expressed pride in being part of an Australian collaboration that is pushing boundaries of hydrogen propulsion technology for commercial aircraft.
BOC Pacific director of strategy and clean energy Vesna Olles emphasised the pivotal role of hydrogen in transitioning towards cleaner energy production and consumption. She observed that hydrogen, when generated from renewable sources, offers a perfect energy storage medium while ensuring zero emissions.
Visionary actions of Skytrans and the HFA in adopting hydrogen power promise to position Australia as the vanguard of aviation’s green revolution.
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