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Air New Zealand commits to ALIA as its first fully electric aircraft

The airline’s long-term decarbonisation strategy has resulted in a purchase which could spearhead New Zealand’s aviation future.

The ALIA is Air New Zealand's first fully electric aircraft.

Air New Zealand has taken a major step in its decarbonisation strategy, revealing it will purchase its first fully electric aircraft which could herald the technology needed to one day operate zero-emission passenger flights.

Under the airline’s ‘Mission Next Gen Aircraft’ program, electric aerospace company BETA Technologies has developed a craft known as ‘ALIA CTOL’ which is a battery-powered aircraft which is on track to begin flying commercial demonstrations in 2026.

The ALIA aircraft weighs only three tonnes and measures just over 12 metres in length, flying at speeds of up to 270kph, with full battery charges taking around 40-60 minutes.

Air New Zealand has now committed to purchasing one aircraft, with options for two more and purchase rights for 20 if ongoing development remains successful.

NZ Post will initially act as cargo partner for the new aircraft, with Expressions of Interest from airports keen on developing maintenance and support facilities for the aircraft, provided they both sit within a 150km radius.

More than 30 companies pitched aircraft models to Air New Zealand as part of the strategy, with Air New Zealand narrowing the list down to four and conducting 18 months of evaluation and diligence on each.

Once certified, the plane will operate cargo but may hold the key to electric passenger flights.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive, Greg Foran, said the purchase marked the opening of a new chapter for the airline.

“Decarbonising aviation isn’t easy, and we have a lot of work to do,” Foran said.

“We need to accelerate the pace of change in the technology, infrastructure, operations and regulation.

“While this aircraft will add to, not replace our existing fleet, it is a catalyst for that change. By flying the ALIA, we hope to advance our knowledge and the transformation needed in the aviation system in Aotearoa for us to fly larger, fleet replacing, next generation aircraft from 2030.”

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 6 December 2023

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