Proposed US start-up carrier Connect Airlines is ordering 75 converted ATR 72-600 turboprops, which will be fitted with hydrogen-fuelled powertrains.
The firm agreement with Universal Hydrogen also covers an additional 25 converted aircraft.
Universal Hydrogen was founded by former Airbus chief technology officer Paul Eremenko, and has an advisory board which includes ex-Airbus chief Tom Enders.
Connect Airlines is a planned scheduled airline company which is emerging from Massachusetts-based private jet charter carrier Waltzing Matilda Aviation.
It reached a provisional agreement last year with Universal Hydrogen covering conversion kits for De Havilland Dash 8-300s and other aircraft types.
“We have committed to being the world’s first true zero-emission airline and the only way to accomplish this in the near term is with hydrogen,” insists Connect chief executive John Thomas.
Deliveries of the aircraft will start in 2025, according to Thomas, who claims that the new airline’s fleet could expand to over 800 aircraft to support a North American route network.
“We see the partnership with Universal Hydrogen as the fastest path to zero-emission operation,” he says.
Eremenko says the Connect order puts the company “firmly in the vanguard” of the “march” to set aviation on a path to meet emissions targets.
“This march will very soon need to turn into a sprint if the industry has any hope of decarbonising in time without having to curtail the growth in passenger volumes,” he adds.
He says there will be a need to convert “most of the regional fleet” in the current decade and ensure that newly-built single-aisle aircraft in the 2030s are hydrogen-fuelled.
“There is no other way to get there,” he adds.
Under the agreement with Connect Airlines, Universal Hydrogen says it will provide fuel services to the would-be airline’s fleet.
Universal Hydrogen is offering hydrogen fuel services to airports using a “modular capsule” technology which, it says, enables transport and handling of hydrogen using existing intermodal freight networks and cargo-handling equipment.