Hamburg Airport and Airbus ink H2 partnership

The aim of this initiative is to secure the infrastructure for the use of green hydrogen, so that the planned fleet of Airbus aircraft, which will use hydrogen as a power source in future, can be refueled at a large number of airports. Hamburg Airport is one of the first European airports, alongside Paris CDG, to join this alliance. Other partners are airports in Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Teaming up for an H2 ecosystem (L > R): Karine Guenan, Airbus / Christian Kunsch, HAM Airport / Nicole Dreyer-Langlet, Airbus / Michael Eggenschwiler, HAM Airport  –  courtesy: HAM

The project focus is of paramount importance: to establish a global airport and aviation ecosystem based on hydrogen. Measured against this, the event last Friday (01DEC23), on the Top Deck of Terminal 2 at Hamburg Airport’s snow-covered terminal, was rather matter of fact and atmospherically sober. Four leading aviation managers – two male, two female – signed an agreement to usher in a new era of clean flying. No music. No infotainment. No long speeches. Just coffee and tea and some snacks. Period. After 20 minutes, the official part of the event was over. Probably a short-duration record for such an important project. Given its significance for climate protection, it would have deserved a priority slot on the agenda of the climate conference currently taking place in Dubai.

H2 is the future of socially accepted flying
It is a truism that passenger and air freight traffic must drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Synthetic fuels in combination with aerodynamic optimization of aircraft, contribute to this, but they are only a transitional solution for clean flying. The only real way to leave the era of fossil propulsion systems behind, is green flying, i.e. using environmentally neutral hydrogen.

First step: Setting up tailored ground infrastructure
At the event in Hamburg, Nicole Dreyer-Langlet, Vice-President Research & Technology Germany, Airbus, confirmed the frame maker’s ZEROe ambitions. Under this project name, a hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft is to be developed and used by airlines from 2035 onwards. Until then, the airports will have to be equipped with the necessary infrastructure. “Only when there is a sufficiently large network of hydrogen airports, will the airlines order the corresponding aircraft and plan utilizing H2 aircraft,” emphasized Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO HAM Airport. “As the first German airport within the global H2 network, Hamburg Airport is also investing in its future role as an important air transportation hub,” added the executive.

Complemented by H2 powered aircraft
The city was chosen by Airbus developers to establish an H2-based ecosystem for several reasons. Every second Airbus of the A320 family, including the new, long-range A321XLR, is produced at the local Airbus plant, the second largest worldwide after Toulouse. It is also home to Lufthansa Technik’s headquarters and – located directly opposite – Airbus’ global center for MRO services and material supplies.

However, Airbus has not yet decided which aircraft model the Group intends to launch to start into the age of hydrogen. It will probably be a turbofan propelled aircraft capable of accommodating 100 passengers and covering a range of around 1,800 km. By 2040, the Group plans to produce a larger model for up to 250 passengers, capable of operating 3,700 km.

And what role will air freight play in these plans? On average, cargo contributes between 10% and 15% to the profitability of a flight route. “We always consider technical solutions for carrying air freight with every new development of an aircraft type, including the future hydrogen aircraft,” assured Karine Guenan, Vice President ZEROe Ecosystem at Airbus.

H2 powered aircraft will cover regional routes first
Aviation experts are convinced that H2 is the future propulsion energy source, particularly for smaller aircraft to start with. Accordingly, the HAM management kicked off a ‘Baltic Sea Region Project’ in MAY23, to secure the supply of green hydrogen from production to the fueling of aircraft or airport ground support equipment, as well as test operations. This pact includes 16 partners and 24 associated organizations, located around the Baltic Sea, e.g.: Finavia, Swedavia, Lithuanian Airports, Riga Airport, and Tallinn Airport. The project complements the H2 agreement on a regional level, now signed by Hamburg Airport and frame maker, Airbus.

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