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Hydrogen-electric Powered Engines Planned for American Airlines’ Regional Jets

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Daniel Ross

Daniel Ross

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 56U.S. States Visited: 17

Daniel has loved aviation and travel his entire life. He earned a Master of Science in Air Transport Management and has written about travel and aviation in publications like Simple Flying, The Points...

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The way our planes are powered needs to change; for the planet’s sake.

American Airlines has confirmed that making changes and developing its aircraft in the name of sustainability is a priority by investing in ZeroAvia — a developer of hydrogen-electric aircraft engines.

“Our investment in ZeroAvia’s emerging hydrogen-electric engine technology has the potential to play a key role in the future of sustainable aviation,” said Derek Kerr, Chief Financial Officer at American Airlines.

Here’s what you need to know about American’s latest green announcement.

American’s Regional Flights Could Be Emission Free by 2030

Along with its investment in ZeroAvia, American has signed a memorandum of understanding that enables it to purchase up to 100 engines from ZeroAvia’s program once they’re ready for commercial use.

To start with, ZeroAvia plans to have engines that will have the capability to fly regional jets with between 9 to 19 seats on trips of up to 300 miles by 2024 — that’s less than 2 years away.

The next step in the plan is to have engines capable of flying 40- to 80-seat aircraft up to 700 miles by 2026. 

To put that into perspective, American’s flights from New York (JFK) to Boston (BOS), Philadelphia (PHL), and Washington-Dulles (IAD) would fall into the 300-mile range.

However, those routes see fairly heavy traffic and require jets with larger capacity than the new engines will be capable of powering.

This means it’s likely that the engines will first fly regional jets on significantly “thinner” routes such as Philadelphia (PHL) to Long Island (ISP) or New York (JFK) to Worcester (ORH).

Potential routes for American’s future hydrogen-electric engine-powered regional jets. Image Credit: Great Circle Mapper.

ZeroAvia’s Hydrogen-electric Engines

The sustainability and future of aviation rests in the hands of companies like ZeroAvia.

The U.S.-based British-American company is working towards getting its propulsion technology certified so the ZA2000-RJ powertrain engines can be installed on regional jets and fly passengers as soon as the end of the decade.

“We are focused on delivering sustainable travel, and are delighted that American, a visionary leader in the industry, sees ZeroAvia as a part of the future of aviation,” said Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO of ZeroAvia.

American’s goal is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The introduction of hydrogen-electric engines will play a significant part in accomplishing that goal.

The race to net-zero aviation is not going to be completed overnight as the range of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric engines will increase with time as advances continue to be made.

Bottom Line: Airlines are facing increased pressure to make “green” changes to their operations in an effort to significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment. As well as introducing hydrogen-electric engines like American is planning, airlines are coming up with other original ways to be more sustainable, such as Qantas and its “Green” elite-status tier

Final Thoughts

It’s great that American has confirmed its dedication to a future of sustainable flying with the investment in ZeroAvia.

Let’s hope that the plans come to fruition and that the airline starts flying jets with hydrogen-electric engines as soon as possible.

About Daniel Ross

Daniel has loved aviation and travel his entire life. He earned a Master of Science in Air Transport Management and has written about travel and aviation in publications like Simple Flying, The Points Guy, and more.


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