easyJet, Europe’s leading airline, has announced it is working with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) to support the development of its hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system for commercial aircraft, as part of the airline’s ambition to de-carbonise aviation.

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions is developing its hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system for an existing 9-seat Britten-Norman Islander aircraft, which is planned to be flying by 2023, and is now working with easyJet to understand how the adoption of zero-carbon technologies could integrate with an airline operations for future introduction of the technology.

easyJet will support Cranfield Aerospace Solutions on the project, providing an airline operator’s perspective on the development of hydrogen propulsion and internal expertise, to assist in the development of this technology for commercial aviation.

David Morgan, Director of Flight Operations, easyJet, said:

“easyJet remains absolutely committed to sustainable flying and a towards a future with zero-emission flying.  We know that technology is a key driver to achieve our decarbonisation targets with hydrogen propulsion a frontrunner for short-haul airlines like easyJet. We are dedicated to working with industry leading partners to support the development of these promising new technologies and we look forward collaborating with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions to support bringing this technology to maturity as early as possible.” 

Paul Hutton, Chief Executive Officer, CAeS, said:

“CAeS is committed to ensuring the wide-spread adoption of zero-emissions aircraft and for this to succeed, the solutions must be commercially viable. We are delighted to be working with easyJet which, as Europe’s leading airline, is ideally placed to help shape our development with the end user in mind. Our 9-seat hydrogen fuel cell powered B-N Islander development is a vital first step in our journey to design and manufacture larger, longer range, regional aircraft between 19 and 100 seats. To have easyJet come with us on this journey is a great example of how organisations large and small must come together to secure the future of our industry and the planet.”

Championing the development of a zero-emission aircraft to de-carbonise aviation has long been a focus for easyJet and the airline is working with partners across the industry like Cranfield, as well as Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Wright Electric, to accelerate the development of zero-emission technologies and supporting infrastructure. The airline is optimistic that it could begin flying customers on planes powered by hydrogen-combustion, hydrogen-electric or a hybrid of both by the mid to late-2030s.

In November, the airline announced that it has joined Race to Zero, a global UN-backed campaign to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. In joining Race to Zero, the airline is committing to set an interim science-based target for 2035 as well as to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, of which technology for zero-emissions flying will play an important part.

In 2019, it became the first major airline worldwide to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all its flights, and currently remains the only major airline in Europe to do so. This comes at no additional cost to its customers and the airline only supports projects that are certified by either Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard. This is an interim measure while new technologies are developed.

Beyond carbon, easyJet is focusing on reducing plastic – more than 36 million single-use plastic items were eliminated – as well as reducing waste within its wider operations and the supply chain. The airline recently introduced new crew uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. With 45 bottles in each uniform this has the potential to prevent 2.7 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or in oceans over the next five years.

About easyJet

 easyJet is Europe’s leading airline offering a unique and winning combination of the best route network connecting Europe’s primary airports, with great value fares and friendly service.

easyJet flies on more of Europe’s most popular routes than any other airline and carried more than 96 million passengers in 2019 – more than 16 million travelling for business. The airline has over 300 aircraft on nearly 1000 routes to more than 150 airports across 35 countries. Over 300 million Europeans live within one hour’s drive of an easyJet airport.

easyJet aims to be a good corporate citizen, employing people on local contracts in eight countries across Europe in full compliance with national laws and recognising their trade unions. The airline supports several local charities and has a corporate partnership with UNICEF which has raised over £14m for the most vulnerable children since it was established in 2012.

The airline takes sustainability seriously and is committed to reaching net-zero emissions flying by 2050. Together with its partners Airbus and Wright Electric, easyJet is working to accelerate the development of zero-emission aircraft technology. In the meantime, the airline is offsetting the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all its flights, at no additional cost to its customers, and only supports projects that are certified by Gold Standard or the Verified Carbon Standard, internationally recognised certification schemes. In addition, easyJet continues to renew its fleet, operate efficiently, and aims to fill most of its seats.

Innovation is in easyJet’s DNA – since launching over 25 years ago, easyJet changed the way people fly to the present day where the airline leads the industry in digital, web, engineering and operational innovations to make travel more easy and affordable for its passengers.

The airline was named as Britain’s Most Admired Company of 2020 in the transport sector, retaining the leading position for a second year running. Britain’s Most Admired Companies study is the longest-running annual survey of corporate reputation in the UK

About Cranfield Aerospace Solutions:

CAeS is an aerospace market leader in the design and manufacture of new aircraft design concepts, complex modifications to existing aircraft and integration of cutting-edge technologies to meet the most challenging issues facing the aerospace industry today.

CAeS is a long-established aircraft company with a client base that has included Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, L3 Harris, Thales, and Raytheon (amongst others).

The 9-seat hydrogen fuel cell powered Britten-Norman Islander aircraft will be available from Q1 2025 building on the technology flying demonstrator (Project Fresson) in Q1 2023 which has been supported by the UK Government through an ATI Grant.

CAeS is an established business with 90+ staff and is one of very few aerospace SMEs globally to have both whole aircraft design capability, and to hold a range of regulatory approvals for the design and manufacture of modifications to existing aircraft.

 CAeS is based at Cranfield Airport where the Company has access to some of the UK’s most advanced aviation test and research facilities.