New national aviation industry group strengthens Bristol’s role as hub for zero carbon flying

September 8, 2023

Bristol Airport has teamed up with airline easyJet and aerospace groups Rolls-Royce, Airbus and GKN Aerospace – all with major plants in the city – to accelerate the introduction of sustainable aviation.

They have formed a new group called the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) to work with the government and other policymakers to make sure future regulations keep pace with ground-breaking technological developments in carbon-free flying.

The West of England is already a leading UK region for research into the use of hydrogen in transport, especially aviation and HIA is the latest national industry group seeking to harness the power of hydrogen as a clean aviation fuel of the future to be led by firms with strong links with Bristol.

Bristol Airport, often regarded as a front runner in sustainable aviation in its industry, is the only airport involved in HIA while Airbus has invested heavily in its Filton wing design plant as it looks to develop more sustainable aircraft.

Earlier this summer it opened a world-leading wing technology research and development centre at Filton.

EasyJet, Bristol Airport’s largest airline with 16 aircraft based there, is already working with aero-engine giant Rolls-Royce, which also has a plant at Filton, on ground testing hydrogen-powered engines.

HIA said while there are currently various options for decarbonising the aviation sector, including sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), synthetic fuels or batteries, it believes that more attention should be paid to the potential of the direct use of hydrogen.

Hydrogen was a very promising alternative-fuel option for short-haul aviation, it said, pointing out that Airbus is already developing new hydrogen-powered aircraft with the aim of entering commercial service from 2035 and Rolls-Royce has already proved that hydrogen can power a jet engine following its successful ground tests last year.

It also said many smaller operators were making rapid progress on hydrogen-powered aircraft, notably ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen, which have already carried out flight tests.

The group said it will draw on the considerable expertise of its members to propose “a clear and deliverable pathway to achieving hydrogen-powered aviation”.

It will work with the government, local authorities and the aviation and hydrogen sectors to make sure the UK to fulfils its potential as a global leader in the application of hydrogen technology.

This will include setting out the pathway for scaling-up the infrastructure and the policy, regulatory and safety frameworks needed so that large scale commercial aviation can become a reality.

Bristol Airport CEO Dave Lees said: “We’re proud to be part of this new alliance, coming together to call for action now so hydrogen flight can become a reality in the future.

“The potential opportunities of hydrogen flight are huge – most of Bristol Airport’s routes could be served by zero-emissions aircraft and our region is uniquely positioned to become a global centre for the new technology, creating thousands of new aerospace jobs.”

Bristol Airport, the third largest in England outside of London, aims to be the first in the UK to achieve net zero carbon operations by 2030. Its operations were independently accredited as being carbon neutral in 2021, four years ahead of its target.

Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce, said: “Collaboration is key when it comes to achieving our net zero ambitions as an industry, which is why we are proud to be part of the Hydrogen in Aviation Alliance.

“Our contribution to HIA is the capability and experience we have in pioneering new technologies and solutions – we have already tested a modern aero engine on green hydrogen and we strongly believe it is one of the solutions that will help decarbonise aviation in the mid to long-term.”

Sabine Klauke, Chief Technology Officer at Airbus said: “As Airbus continues to mature the aircraft technologies needed to deliver hydrogen-powered flight, a united industry voice is needed to secure a robust ecosystem of renewably sourced hydrogen.

“Joining our peers from across the UK aviation landscape in a targeted approach to policy and investment action brings us closer to a decarbonised future of flying.”

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Bristol for just £120 a month. Email for more information.