Universal's Hydrogen Conversion To Be Used By New U.S. Scheduled Carrier
According to Connect Airlines, its fleet of used Dash 8-300 twin turboprops will be converted to hydrogen power by 2025. On November 8, the operator signed a letter of intent to purchase 12 of Universal Hydrogen's in-development conversion kits.
Initially, Connect will offer flights out of Toronto's downtown Billy Bishop Airport to cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago with two 70-seat Dash 8 Q400 aircraft leased from Chorus in the spring of 2022. It plans to expand its service to Detroit, Cincinnati, and Charlotte, North Carolina after that. By switching to hydrogen, it claims to be the first zero-emission U.S. airline, rebranding the converted 50-seat Dash 8-300 as the "GreenJet."
Dash 8 and ATR 42 and 72 commuter airliner families are being converted by Universal Hydrogen, which hopes to have a supplemental type certificate approved by the FAA by 2025. Other airlines have agreed to convert aircraft using the California-based start-up's package, which includes hydrogen fuel cells and pre-filled capsules in the back. There are several such airlines, including Icelandair, Air Nostrum, Ravn Alaska, and ASL Aviation.
Part 121 approval is being added to Connect's air operator certificate by Waltzing Matilda Aviation, a subsidiary of Part 135 business jet charter operator Waltzing Matilda Aviation. A new airline will also receive green hydrogen as part of the deal with Universal Hydrogen. The hydrogen propulsion pioneer raised more than $85 million since Waltzing Matilda invested $62 million in a funding round in October.
The converted aircraft will have a 35 percent smaller carbon footprint than the original models, according to Universal Hydrogen. In addition to converting the aircraft to "true zero-emission operation", Connect has not yet explained what further steps will be required.
According to Universal Hydrogen co-founder and CEO Paul Eremenko, the U.S. aviation industry is a laggard in its decarbonization efforts. Thus, it is so monumentally important that Connect Airlines will be the first airline to commit to zero-emissions operations in the relatively near future.