The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

ZeroAvia and Monte Aircraft Leasing To Retrofit 100 Aircraft with ZA600 Powerplants

Monte Aircraft Leasing has agreed to buy 100 ZeroAvia ZA600 powerplants as part of an agreement to provide aircraft leasing and financing instruments for operators that run zero-emission flights. Under the deal, ZeroAvia will install the hydrogen fuel cell powertrains on existing and new Cessna Caravan, DHC-6 Twin Otter, Dornier 228, and HAL-228 regional turboprops.

ZeroAvia and London-based Monte aim to retrofit the aircraft for clients starting in 2024 and provide and finance maintenance and hydrogen availability services to support the operations. The deal will make ZeroAvia Monte’s exclusive hydrogen-electric powertrain provider for the aircraft in its portfolio. However, the company has not yet explained how it intends to source aircraft for conversion and on what terms they will be offered to airlines.

The 600kw ZA600 powertrain—designed to support five- to 20-seat airframes—uses gaseous hydrogen stored onboard in lightweight tanks. The hydrogen feeds fuel cell stacks that generate power by converting hydrogen into electricity.

ZeroAvia plans to soon flight test the ZA600 powertrain in a retrofitted Dornier 228. In the initial testing configuration, the aircraft testbed will fly with one hydrogen-electric powertrain on one wing, while keeping the stock engine on the other wing to ensure safe testing conditions. The testing program will then sequentially move to full hydrogen-electric flight, ultimately working toward a certifiable hydrogen-electric powertrain as the sole propulsion source for the categories of airframes included in the deal.

ZeroAvia’s work to develop ZA600 to a certifiable configuration forms part of the HyFlyer II project, in part supported by the UK government through the ATI program. The company says its plans are “well advanced” to certify the ZA600 powertrain for entry into service in 2024.

The U.S. company also has begun work on the ZA2000, a two- to five-MW modular powertrain meant for certification in 40- to 80-seat turboprops by 2026. The ZA2000RJ powertrain will expand that technology to regional jets as early as the late 2020s, said ZeroAvia.

During the last quarter of 2021, ZeroAvia secured partnerships and funding with Alaska Air Group and United Airlines to accelerate the development of its ZA2000 engine. Another customer for the conversion program to hydrogen power is leasing group Rose Cay.

Late last month ZeroAvia expanded an agreement that calls for Mitsubishi’s MHI RJ Aviation Group (MHIRJ) to provide engineering services and aircraft integration to support the certification of the ZA2000RJ. The agreement followed a memorandum of understanding signed last October that outlined the MHI subsidiary’s contribution of engineering for certification of the engines to FAA Part 33 rules and advisory services to evaluate the feasibility of a green retrofit program for regional aircraft.

The announcement with MHIRJ follows ZeroAvia's recent expansion of its Hollister location in California and a deal with Shell for hydrogen supply, as well as the opening of a facility at Paine Field in Washington state in January.