Connect Airline Announces Deal to Convert 75, ATR 72-600s to Hydrogen Power | Aero-News Network
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Connect Airline Announces Deal to Convert 75, ATR 72-600s to Hydrogen Power

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Connect Airlines, the inchoate American airline that intends to operate flights between Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and U.S. Midwestern and Northeastern cities, announced at last week’s UP. Summit that it has placed a firm order to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains, with purchase rights for an additional 25 conversions.

The work is to be performed by Hawthorne, CA—based Universal Hydrogen.

In addition to a hydrogen conversion kit for the popular ATR 72-600 regional turboprop, Universal Hydrogen offers hydrogen fuel services to airports. The service is based on a modular capsule technology that enables the transport and handling of hydrogen using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. The modularity of Universal Hydrogen’s service eliminates the need for costly and lengthy airport infrastructure upgrades, thereby enabling most any airport to support hydrogen-powered flight operations.

As part of its deal with the air carrier, Universal Hydrogen will provide hydrogen fuel services to Connect Airlines’s fleet. Universal asserts its fuel services will facilitate operating unit economics equivalent to or better than those of hydrocarbon-powered ATR 72s.

Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas states, “We are building Connect Airlines from the ground up as a smarter, more sustainable travel option for North American travelers.” Mr. Thomas adds, “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.” 

In a somewhat hyperbolic and self-serving assessment of the agreement, Universal Hydrogen Co-Founder Paul Eremenko said, “This march [hydrogen conversion] will very soon need to turn into a sprint if the industry has any hope of decarbonizing in time without having to curtail the growth in passenger volumes. We will need to convert most of the regional fleet in the 2020s and ensure that the new narrow-body aircraft built in the 2030s are hydrogen-powered—there is no other way to get there.”

Deliveries of the hydrogen-fuel-converted ATR 72-600s is slated to commence in 2025.



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