Thurston is a co-owner of the north Queensland airline, Skytrans, which is part of the Hydrogen Flight Alliance, which also includes two universities, two airports and Aviation Australia. Skytrans would also operate the flight using a Stralis B1900D-HE aircraft, which is designed and built in Brisbane.
Hydrogen is expected to have a key role in future transport, not only because it has no emissions, but also because it has an advantage over batteries in the time it takes to refuel heavy transport vehicles compared with recharging batteries.
However, the alliance said there were challenges including the availability of hydrogen at scale, cost and airport infrastructure. However, the formation of the alliance would also help with the setting up of a clean technology innovation hub in Queensland.
Stralis is expecting to start testing a six-seater Beechcraft Bonanza demonstrator aircraft early next year.
A hydrogen aircraft was successfully trialled in a short flight in the US earlier this year, but the technology is not new. The USSR trialled hydrogen as a fuel as far back as 1988.
Airbus is also exploring ways to develop hydrogen aircraft.
The alliance also envisions that athletes at the 2032 Olympics would be transported around the state in hydrogen aircraft as a part of its climate-positive theme.
Skytrans chief executive Alan Milne said the company was proud to be leading the nation in developing a hydrogen industry. It’s expected Skytrans would operate a 15 seat Stralis aircraft on the route.
Queensland Energy and Hydrogen Minister Mick de Brenni said green hydrogen was the next frontier in a world that was hungry for renewables.
“Green hydrogen will be a game changer in decarbonising heavy haulage, shipping, manufacturing and aviation while also slashing emissions, helping tackle climate change and safeguarding natural tourism wonders for generations to come,” de Brenni said.
Stralis Aircraft chief executive and co-founder Bob Criner said the alliance would help find the answer to key questions about hydrogen, namely accessing it at an affordable price.
“This is not a problem we can solve on our own. It requires industry collaboration,” Criner said.
Hydrogen is still vastly more expensive than other gases, but there has been significant progress in the area.
Griffith University is also a part of the alliance and would bring teaching and research capability to the group.