16 April 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

UK lessor MONTE signs deals to deliver up to 90 zero-emission commuter planes

MONTE Aircraft Leasing, a UK-based lessor specialising in zero-emission regional fleets, has announced two new deals which could deliver up to 90 hybrid-electric or hydrogen-electric commuter planes for use by short-haul operators seeking to decarbonise. Through a partnership with US company Ampaire, MONTE will acquire up to 50 Eco Caravans, hybrid-electric upgrades of the Cessna Grand Caravan, which operates as both a passenger plane and a parcel freighter. The lessor has also signed a letter of intent with the UK’s Cranfield Aerospace Solutions to buy 40 modification kits to convert Britten-Norman Islander aircraft from fossil-fuelled piston engines to hydrogen-electric propulsion systems. The Ampaire and Cranfield announcements coincided with the maiden flight of Ampaire’s Eco Caravan prototype. They also extend MONTE’s growing portfolio of suppliers in the zero-emission aerospace sector and agreements with multiple operators to investigate green fleet or propulsion options for short-range flights.

The Ampaire agreement consists of 25 firm orders for Eco Caravans and options to acquire another 25, and is underpinned by a mutual preferred partner agreement, through which Ampaire will provide Eco Caravans to MONTE, and the lessor will become Ampaire’s financing partner for the type.

Compared to the conventionally-powered Cessna Grand Caravan, Ampaire says the Eco Caravan can cut fuel and emissions by up to 70% on shorter journeys and 50% on longer trips, and is “effectively carbon neutral” when also flown with sustainable aviation fuel. The Eco Caravan is also designed to deliver greater range without compromising payload and can recharge its batteries in flight, enabling it to serve any airport to which Caravans now fly, irrespective of ground charging infrastructure.

“MONTE is looking to build a fleet of low-emission and zero-emission aircraft to lease or finance for regional aircraft operators worldwide,” said Timothy Eyre, the company’s Investment Director.  “Ampaire has emerged as the leading hybrid-electric technology provider and its Eco Caravan will be very attractive for a segment of our operators. We are excited to have signed another key technology partnership and are looking forward to working with the Ampaire team to finance the Eco Caravan.”

The lessor has recently signed agreements to explore zero emission options and financing for customers including Cessna Caravan operators such as Costa Rica Green Airways.

Ampaire’s testbed Eco Caravan has just completed its first flight, powered by a fully-integrated hybrid-electric propulsion system. The nine-seat aircraft departed Camarillo Airport, north of Los Angeles, climbed at full power to 3,500 feet, and flew for 33 minutes using a combination of power from its combustion and electric engines.  

“The Eco Caravan is our starting point for a revolution in air travel,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. “It brings cost per available seat mile down to the range of driving, benefiting operators and their passengers. It dramatically shrinks the aircraft’s carbon footprint. The propulsion technology is scalable and we intend to quickly move toward larger regional aircraft and even the single-aisle jet market over time.”

This month, MONTE signed an agreement with Indian regional flybig to provide financing and leasing solutions for the conversion of the airline’s fleet of DHC-6-400 and ATR aircraft to zero emission propulsion technologies. The lessor will also lease two DHC-6-400 aircraft to flybig. Announcing the airline’s #GoGreen initiative, Managing Director Sanjay Mandavia said: “This initiative will not only revolutionise air travel in India, but also reduce the cost of flying with flybig.”

MONTE has also signed a letter of intent with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions to buy 40 modification kits to retrofit twin-engine Britten-Norman Islander (BN2) aircraft to hydrogen-electric propulsion systems.

Through its ‘Project Fresson’ initiative, Cranfield is converting a nine-seat BN2 from fossil fuel to gaseous hydrogen, using a fuel cell and electric motor. The company’s initial aim is to achieve certification of the type for passenger service by 2026, and to offer the aircraft as a zero-emission option for short haul flights, with longer term plans to develop new-build 19-seat and 75-seat aircraft. 

MONTE will become Cranfield’s recommended financing partner for the converted BN2 aircraft, while Cranfield will become MONTE’s exclusive provider of the planes.

“We are excited to announce our partnership with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions which allows us to offer converted electric-hydrogen Britten-Norman Islander aircraft to regional turboprop operators,” said MONTE’s Eyre. “This partnership represents another important milestone on our journey to becoming carbon neutral by 2027.” 

Cranfield’s CEO, Paul Hutton, said: “We are delighted to be able to sign this deal with MONTE Aircraft Leasing, a company that we believe shares the same ambitions and values as us. It’s an extremely exciting time for Cranfield Aerospace Solutions as we continue to gain sales momentum in the market.”

The latest deals extend MONTE’s growing list of partnerships with suppliers including the hydrogen propulsion developer ZeroAvia and electric and hydrogen powertrain company Dovetail Electric Aviation. The lessor has ordered 100 ZA600 powertrains from ZeroAvia to convert conventionally-powered regional aircraft including the Cessna Caravan, Dornier 228 and DHC-6 Twin Otter, and another 50 conversion kits from newly-former Euro-Australian company Dovetail Electric Aviation to convert Cessna Caravans to hybrid-electric propulsion and Beech King Air aircraft to hydrogen-electric power.

Photo: MONTE is to explore the conversion of Costa Rica Green Airways’ fleet of Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX aircraft to zero-emission propulsion

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