Image: CRANFIELD AEROSPACE

Another critical step has been taken toward commercialization of zero-carbon flights to the Isles of Scilly.

This week, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, three companies signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) formalizing their relationship and commitment to bringing hydrogen-powered flights to the islands, thereby realizing the zero-carbon vision.

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group (ISSG), Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), and their partner Britten-Norman have pledged to work collaboratively to bring the vision to life.

CAeS is leading the collaboration under Project Fresson, leveraging Britten-expertise Norman’s as the original equipment manufacturer for one of the world’s most successful low-cost, STOL, short-sector aircraft. ISSG, which previously operated the Islander, has sold one of its aircraft to CAeS for retrofitting. ISSG will also contribute to Project Fresson by leveraging its operational expertise and in-depth understanding of infrastructure requirements.

The Isles of Scilly, located just off the coast of Cornwall in the south west of the United Kingdom, attract over 100,000 visitors each year with their unspoiled beauty and natural wonder.

The islands’ uniqueness has been recognized through the designation of the entire archipelago as a protected landscape. The islands are a Conservation Area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Heritage Coast, and a Special Protection Area. The operation of the hydrogen-electric Islander will enable ISSG to contribute to the protection of the Scilly Isles’ unique, beautiful, and protected landscapes.

CAeS and Britten-Norman considered battery power as part of their original concept for a zero-carbon aircraft. It became clear early on that a battery-only solution was impractical due to the impact of weight, charge time, and charging infrastructure. Switching to a hydrogen-electric fuel cell option provides operators with increased flexibility, increased passenger capacity, and cost savings of up to 50% on powertrain maintenance and 40%–50% on variable costs.

Stuart Reid, Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group which operates the airline Skybus, announced: “This is an exciting development in the project, and one which we are proud to be a part of. The Letter of Intent for hydrogen aircraft really shows our commitment towards a zero-emission aviation industry and to becoming an early adopter of this cutting-edge technology.

“The Isles of Scilly is a special and extraordinary place and we take our environmental policy very seriously, as well as our responsibility towards meeting the Government’s objectives of the decarbonisation of transport.”

Paul Hutton, CAeS CEO said: “It is incredibly important for the future of our planet that we deliver emission-free aircraft and I am delighted to see the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s commitment to this outcome. I would encourage contact from airlines of all sizes who would like to find out how these aircraft can be part of their future.”

William Hynett, Chief Executive of Britten-Norman, commented: “Innovation sits at the heart of the Britten-Norman strategy so we are very pleased to be part of Project Fresson and its aim to deliver zero carbon travel. We wish to help bring hydrogen-electric commercial aircraft to the market at the earliest opportunity so that we can help drive our customers’ success in the new age of air transport.”

“In striving for a zero-carbon future, it is essential that solutions are practical, affordable and sustainable and we believe that we are well placed to help achieve these vital goals in a way that will resonate with our global customers, many of whom seek to help protect the outstandingly beautiful places in which they operate.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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