Preparing airports for hydrogen-powered aviation

The aviation industry is facing growing pressure to adopt sustainable practices. Regulators and consumers are demanding more environmentally friendly solutions. The transition to sustainable aviation is taking place on a global scale and new opportunities for radical transformation of the industry are being explored to meet Net Zero targets.
Hydrogen powered airplane
There isn’t one answer to the problem. A holistic approach spanning the building, ground infrastructure and flights is needed to transition to sustainable aviation. The aviation industry must act quickly and proactively to stay ahead of the curve, exceed customers' expectations and meet the ambitious targets set by governments.

One of the key solutions is hydrogen, which has immense potential and is expected to be an alternative to kerosene. In this article we dive deeper into what hydrogen means for aviation and how it will impact airports.

What is hydrogen aviation?

Hydrogen-powered aviation is a promising, zero-carbon solution for aviation. Using hydrogen as a fuel for aircraft, aviation can minimise its climate impact. Aviation is currently responsible for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions. If nothing changes this share is expected to grow to 20-50%. Airlines, airports, and other stakeholders have recognised the need for their businesses to be future-proof, including a sustainable and scalable response to the onset of hydrogen-powered aviation.

Hydrogen has the potential to revolutionise the aviation sector, from powering aircraft to ground service equipment (GSE). The unique properties of hydrogen, such as its energy density, result in a unique market position, expected to be complementary to electric flight and Sustainable Aviation Fuels, bridging the gap in range and payload capacity.

Why is hydrogen aviation a game-changer for the industry?

Apart from providing a more sustainable alternative to kerosene, hydrogen has extreme potential due to its high energy density. Hydrogen’s energy density means that aircraft using the fuel will benefit from much larger ranges and payload capacities than electric aircraft. Eventually, it is expected that hydrogen will be a conventional aviation fuel.

When will hydrogen aviation become a reality?

The hydrogen aviation sector is currently undergoing several advancements. Start-ups are working to retrofit existing airframes with hydrogen propulsion systems, with some expecting to enter service in the mid-2020s. Traditional aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus are also developing a hydrogen-powered aircraft, with plans to enter service in the mid-2030s.

The near-term introduction of hydrogen in aviation is likely to be limited to specific routes where fuel availability is not a constraint. However, the complexity of supply chain, airport infrastructure and route network changes present challenge to immediate, widespread adoption of hydrogen in aviation.

What will hydrogen aviation mean for airports?

The transition to hydrogen fuel in aviation requires not only the development of new aircraft, but also adjustments to airport infrastructure and operations. The unique properties of hydrogen may pose challenges for airports that have become accustomed to kerosene. Hydrogen, particularly in liquid form, will require airports to adapt infrastructure and operations.

The impact of hydrogen on an airport depends on the volume of hydrogen required, which varies based on factors such as airport size and aircraft types. Additionally, the hydrogen supply chain chosen plays a critical role in shaping the airport's spatial planning and operations.

At NACO, we guide airports and other stakeholders to understand the impact of hydrogen on their operations and how to integrate it seamlessly into their existing infrastructure. Our goal is to provide a holistic approach to sustainability in aviation, including not only flights, but also the buildings and infrastructure that support them.
Want to get more insights into the role of hydrogen in aviation and its potential impact on airports? Download our whitepaper and dive deeper:
White Paper

Preparing airports for hydrogen flight

  • Get insights into the impact of hydrogen-powered aviation on an airport environment
  • Explore the challenges and opportunities of hydrogen air fuel
Download the white paper
Cover image White Paper - Hydrogen powered airplane
Vivekanandhan Sindhamani - Head of Sustainable Aviation & Resilience


Head of Sustainable Aviation & Resilience