Hybrid Air Vehicles and HITRANS target deployment of six Airlander 10 aircraft for new Highlands and Islands services

  • Hybrid Air Vehicles and the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) will work together to build the Airlander 10 business case through new study and analysis.
  • To back the business case, and enable commercial operations to start as soon as possible once complete, Hybrid Air Vehicles has reserved production slots for six Airlander 10 aircraft.

Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited and the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) have today announced a plan to progress potential Airlander 10 services for the Highlands and Islands, and substantially improve regional passenger and freight transport by air.

The plan includes an agreement to develop a full business case for the commercial operation of Airlander 10 aircraft in the region for passenger and freight services, through a new joint study, a continuation of earlier concept and feasibility study work. This activity represents a significant further commitment by HITRANS in the research and planning of future decarbonised air services serving Scotland.

To support the potential for new services in the region, Hybrid Air Vehicles will also reserve early production slots for six Airlander 10 aircraft for HITRANS.

Together, with a proven business case and the option of six Airlander 10 aircraft will enable HITRANS and Hybrid Air Vehicles to identify a commercial operator to begin delivering services in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.

The integration of Airlander 10 will also support the region’s goals of net-zero air transport by 2045.

Airlander 10 is a new type of ultra-low emissions aircraft capable of carrying 100 passengers, or ten tonnes of freight payload, or a combination of both, with up to 90% fewer emissions when compared like-for-like with similar aircraft. It has unique capabilities, such as its inherent efficiency and its ability to take-off and land with limited infrastructure, which make it ideally suited to meet specific needs in the Highlands and Islands and comparable remote and island geographies globally.

The announcement builds on an earlier feasibility study between Hybrid Air Vehicles and HITRANS, through the UKRI-funded Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), which found that Airlander 10 can substantially improve the provision of low carbon emissions passenger and freight services for the region with minimal investment in infrastructure upgrades.

Throughout 2024, Hybrid Air Vehicles has announced significant progress toward the full-scale production and market-entry of Airlander 10, its first aircraft, by the end of this decade. In February 2024, it announced that Type Certification had begun with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, which would regulate the aircraft for civil aviation roles. In March 2024, it announced a flagship production site at Carcroft Common, in South Yorkshire, with the backing of the City of Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

We are excited to see early concept work progress further towards eventual service. We are committing resources and effort to work with even greater focus with HAV to produce a compelling business case, that will attract the commercial interest and investment required. This is a direct product of the successful SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) project, supported by UKRI, where the challenges of connectivity in Northern Scotland are proving an ideal test for both the technical and commercial capabilities of new technology.

Ranald Robertson Director, Highland and Islands Transport Partnership

We’re committing six Airlander 10 production slots for our growing partnership with HITRANS as we develop the business case together because this is precisely the type of game changing air transport service we developed it for. HITRANS, through this further work, has reaffirmed its commitment to bringing new transport innovations forward. This decade, Airlander 10 can help open up new commercial opportunities and access to tourism, making it easier to see friends and family, and improve access to vital public services - all the whilst breaking the link between growth and emissions in air transport. HITRANS are a visionary partner, and we’re excited to take another step forward together.

Tom Grundy CEO, Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd

About HITRANS, the Highland and Islands Transport Partnership

The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) is the statutory regional transport partnership for Na h-Eileanan Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands and Argyll and Bute. It was created by Transport Scotland under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005, along with six similar groups covering other areas of Scotland. HITRANS covers the largest area of any such partnership in Scotland, covering over 50% of the country's total landmass.

Its main functions are to determine and deliver better transport, both locally and nationally, and to act as a catalyst for regeneration of the region's economy.

HITRANS makes plans through its Regional Strategy, which was first approved by the Scottish Government in 2008. It was later refreshed in 2017.

About SATE

The Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), part of the UKRI Future Flight Challenge, is the UK’s first operationally based low-carbon aviation test centre, based at Kirkwall Airport on Orkney.

Led by the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), SATE brings together an international consortium of industry partners, public sector bodies and academia which work with a range of regional businesses and stakeholders to apply state-of-the-art aviation technology to deliver targeted economic growth.

The Highlands and Islands represents an ideal “living laboratory” for emergent aviation technologies, demonstrating their practical applications in addressing connectivity challenges, as well as creating an emerging new sector with significant job creation potential. SATE is at the forefront in progressing both the UK and Scottish government’s aviation aspirations and has already delivered new airport infrastructure and demonstrated hybrid-electric aircraft and autonomous logistics.

The SATE programme aspires to become the UK Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Regional Aviation Systems.

While the SATE facilities are based at Kirkwall Airport, SATE 2 is working with other Highlands & Islands communities and matching the new technology with practical use cases to benefit communities in the Highlands and Islands.

Use cases developed in SATE have been, and will continue to be, supported by Orkney, Shetland, Western Isles and Highland councils. Use case projects from the initial phase include serving the NHS, NatureScot, Orkney Food and Drink, Streamline Shipping and Royal Mail.

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