Universal Hydrogen said on Wednesday that it has collected a firm order from prospective Massachusetts-based regional carrier Connect Airlines to covert 75 ATR 72-600 regional turboprops to hydrogen power. Connect Airlines, which still awaits a Show Cause Order from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly De Havilland Dash 8-400s from points between the Northeast and Midwest U.S. cities and Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, would take delivery of the first converted ATR in 2025, according to Universal. The latest contract between Connect Airlines and Universal follows a letter of intent announced last year that called for converting De Havilland Dash 8-300s.
A division of Boston-based Part 135 charter operator Waltzing Matilda Aviation, Connect Airlines also signed for purchase rights on another 25 ATR conversions. It says it has committed to becoming the world’s first “true” zero-emission airline.
“We see the partnership with Universal Hydrogen as the fastest path to zero-emission operation because they offer both an affordable retrofit solution for the existing airplane fleet, as well as a pragmatic approach to delivering hydrogen to any airport in our route network,” said Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas. “With this technology and its economics, we see the demand growing to 800 new aircraft added to the regional fleet over the next decade.”
In addition to a hydrogen conversion kit for the ATR 72-600, Universal Hydrogen offers hydrogen fuel services to airports using a modular capsule technology that allows for the transport and handling of hydrogen using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. Wednesday’s agreement also calls for Universal Hydrogen to provide fuel services to the Connect fleet.
“This order places Connect firmly in the vanguard of the march to get aviation on a path to meeting Paris Agreement emissions targets,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “This march 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 narrowbody aircraft built in the 2030s are hydrogen-powered; there is no other way to get there.”