Air New Zealand is looking for domestic airports to become test locations for its planned low emissions demonstrator aircraft.

In early 2024, the carrier will announce the low emission demonstrator aircraft it will start testing for cargo services from 2026.

Air New Zealand Mission Next Gen

Source: Air New Zealand

Artist’s impression of Mission Next Gen aircraft

“Work around next generation aircraft is a key part of the airline’s strategy to decarbonise its operations,” says the carrier’s chief sustainability officer Kiri Hannifin.

“Decarbonising aviation is not easy, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re committed to reducing our emissions as quickly as we can, and this process is another step in the right direction.”

Air NZ will choose between three power sources for its demonstrator: electric, hybrid, or fuel cells. Interested airports must already be served by Air NZ.

The carrier is looking for a base airport where the demonstrator can be maintained, refuelled/recharged, and stored. The destination airport must also support refuelling/recharging and be within “viable range” of the base airport.

Both airports require a 1,200m (3,940ft) runway with lighting, as well as an instrument flight rules capability.

The call for expressions of interest falls under Air NZ’s Mission Next Gen to find an environmentally friendly successor to the carrier’s De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q300 twin-turboprops.

The carrier is working with Airbus, ATR, Heart Aerospace, Embraer, and Universal Hydrogen on zero-emissions aircraft technology.

“While we’re really looking forward to bringing two frontrunner airports on board, it’s also important to note that all airports in New Zealand play an important role as we work towards bringing next generation aircraft into our network here in [New Zealand] at scale,” adds Hannifin.