UK regional airline Loganair this week confirmed plans to launch services with a hydrogen-powered aircraft in Scotland’s Orkney Islands by 2027. Under a memorandum of understanding signed with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), the companies will collaborate to develop plans for operating Britten-Norman Islander aircraft converted to use a new hydrogen-electric propulsion system.
CAeS is working towards securing certification for the conversion process in 2026 using its proprietary hydrogen fuel cell technology. Its plan calls for converting existing and new-build Islander aircraft, which typically seat nine passengers and use turboprop or piston engines, to use a powertrain combining fuel cells and electric motors.
According to Loganair its first services with the zero-emissions commuter aircraft will operate from Kirkwell in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. The carrier, which operates services across the UK, specializing in connecting remote communities to larger cities, has not yet formally agreed to purchase a specific number of Islanders or confirm whether it will take converted or new-build aircraft.
CAeS is working with the Islander’s manufacturer Britten-Norman under a strategic partnership. Last year the two companies paused discussions over a planned merger, but say they are committed to completing development of the hydrogen-powered Islander, which has been in service worldwide for several decades.
The concept for the hydrogen-powered Islander was initiated as part of Project Fresson, which has received support from the UK government. In addition to Loganair, German regional airline start-up Evia Aero is interested in operating the aircraft, and leasing group Monte Aircraft has expressed support as well.
“As an airline, we are doing everything we can to manage and mitigate the environmental impact of flying,” said Loganair chairman Peter Simpson. “Our Greenskies environmental program, which offsets carbon emissions and invests in future flight technologies, is unique within the industry and our partnership with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions builds on the commitments we have made as part of this. The short routes we operate in Orkney and the challenging weather conditions we face make the ideal test bed for hydrogen-electric aircraft.”