Air Liquide, Airbus and Groupe ADP are gearing up for the first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to prepare airports for the clean fuel move.

Formalising the agreement today (June 21), the trio said they hope to support the decarbonisation of aviation sector and define the concrete needs and opportunities that hydrogen can bring to aeronautics.

The news follows Airbus’ commitment to have the world’s first zero emission commercial aircraft in service by 2035. The multinational aerospace corporation disclosed the ambition as it unveiled three hydrogen-based aircraft concepts in September.

As a first step to get airports ready for such developments, a study involving a representative panel of approximately 30 airports worldwide will be launched to assess potential configurations for liquid hydrogen production, supply, and distribution.

From the study, detailed scenarios and plans will be drawn up for the two main Paris airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. It is believed these plans will be essential in defining the required infrastructure.

Commenting on the effort, Matthieu Giard, Vice-President, Member of the Executive Committee, supervising hydrogen activities, said, “Air Liquide recently announced ambitious commitments to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We must act now, notably by accelerating the development of the hydrogen sector and preparing the future. To the aviation industry, Air Liquide brings its unique expertise in the hydrogen supply chain, in particular with regards to liquid hydrogen, which requires advanced mastery of extreme cryogenics.

“This partnership, led by three major players, reflects a shared desire to accelerate the energy transition and to build the future for a more sustainable aviation.”

Antoine Bouvier, Airbus Head of Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions and Public Affairs, added, “This partnership between an aircraft manufacturer, an airport authority and a hydrogen expert is an important and necessary step to prepare for the entry-into-service of a zero emission aircraft by 2035.

“By starting to introduce hydrogen at Paris airports now, we underscore the shared ambition of an entire ecosystem to make the decarbonisation of the aviation sector possible and to achieve our emissions-reduction targets.”

Edward Arkwright, Groupe ADP Deputy CEO, concluded, “With our partners, we are ready to launch feasibility studies to enable the gradual introduction of hydrogen at Paris airports. We must prepare – starting today – to welcome hydrogen aircraft by 2035 by transforming our airports into hydrogen hubs, which, along with other solutions, such as sustainable aviation fuel, will enable the decarbonisation of air travel.”