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Airlines Investing in Electric/Hydrogen-Powered Flight

If you think electric and hydrogen powered commercial aircraft remain a dream, you haven’t been keeping up with the news.  Several major airlines (United, Delta, Icelandair) made headlines recently with new investments, partnerships, and ongoing studies of electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

United Airlines and Icelandair signed separate agreements for next-generation aircraft and hydrogen, while the CEO of Delta Air Lines cemented the company’s interest in the development of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

United confirmed a new investment in electric aircraft startup Heart Aerospace.  United Airlines Ventures, along with Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Mesa Airlines made a joint investment of $35 million toward the development of Heart Aerospace’s 19-seater ES-19 aircraft.  United and its regional subsidiary Mesa have conditionally agreed to purchase 200 of the ES-19 aircraft.

Sweden-based Heart Aerospace is developing the ES-19 as all-electric fly-by-wire regional turboprop aircraft with a range of up to 217 nm.  Heart expects the aircraft to be ready to achieve type certification from European and U.S. civil aviation authorities by the third quart of 2026.

Icelandair will focus on hydrogen for its clean-energy efforts.  It has signed a letter of intent with Universal Hydrogen, to “pursue the implementation of green hydrogen, a carbon-free aviation fuel, as a propellant for Icelandair’s domestic aircraft fleet.”

California-based Universal Hydrogen is developing an aftermarket hydrogen conversion kit for regional aircraft, as well as a fuel distribution system based on a unique modular hydrogen capsule technology.

Delta’s current fleet renewal strategy centers on the acquisition of 36 airliners—including 29 used Boeing 737-900ERs and seven used Airbus A350-900s—an eventual investment or partnership around electric-powered aircraft is something it’s considering.