Delta Air Lines and Airbus have recently signed a memorandum of understanding which will call for collaboration on the research and development of hydrogen-powered aircraft and the related infrastructure “ecosystem”.  Delta confirmed this last Thursday. 

Making flying more environmentally friendly 

Delta already had a Flight and Net Zero plan which aimed to scale and advance sustainable technologies, this decision follows a similar strand in the airline’s motivations to improve their environmental credentials. 

This agreement also makes Delta the first U.S airline to partner with Airbus on the OEM’s Zero E programme to develop a hydrogen-powered, narrowbody-class airliner. The pioneering airliner is scheduled to enter service in 2035. 

Launched in September 2020, Airbus’ Zero E programme contains three possibilities for hydrogen-powered platforms – they plan to make a decision on the three in 2024. 

European aerospace company Airbus has signed agreements elsewhere with three other airlines – EasyJet, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and Air New Zealand – with the purpose of studying infrastructure needs for future hydrogen-powered aircraft. 

Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer Pam Fletcher spoke about the airline’s partnership with Airbus and what it means for sustainable aviation. 

“To pull the future of sustainable aviation forward, we need to accelerate the development and commercialization of potentially disruptive technologies,

Hydrogen fuel is an exciting concept that has the potential to redefine the status quo. These tangible steps lay the groundwork for the next generation of aviation.”

The agreement requires Delta to identify fleet and network expectations and the operational and infrastructure requirements needed to develop commercial aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel. This was confirmed by the airline. 

Delta continued, stating their other responsibilities under the agreement. The Atlanta-based airline has to undergo work assessing the infrastructure required to develop “green” hydrogen, facilitate its availability at airports nationwide, and analyse costs and regulations. 

Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines looks to improve the sustainability of the aviation industry | © Andrea Ongaro – Travel Radar

Direct collaboration with Airbus involves advocating for a decarbonised future in aviation, including identifying and promoting pathways to hydrogen production with key industry stakeholders. 

Delta has shown interest in the sustainability space before. This announcement builds on their recent investment in the TPG Rise climate fund, which aims to support climate solutions at scale. 

Finally, by joining the First Movers Coalition, Delta has shown its support of a public-private partnership and platform which was designed to accelerate and grow the development of significant climate technologies.  

Airbus announced intentions to test a hydrogen jet engine from as early as 2026.

Ensuring that all areas of society are striving for better sustainability and environmentally kind practices is key to slowing the staggering increase of global warming. Delta and Airbus’ plans thus far are positive. 

What more do you think the aviation industry can do to improve sustainability in its sector? Let us know. 

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