First commercial emission-free hydrogen-powered aircraft between Brisbane and Gladstone in 2026

Bob Criner (left) and Johnathan Thurston are championing emissions-free hydrogen-powered flight. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

NRL great joins race for carbon-free commercial flight

Staff WritersAAP in Perth Now

A new alliance plans to launch Australia into carbon-neutral commercial flight, and an airline owned by rugby league great Johnathan Thurston is a key playmaker.

The goal is the first focus of the Hydrogen Flight Alliance, a group of aviation and green energy players that wants to fly the country’s first commercial emission-free hydrogen-powered aircraft between Brisbane and Gladstone in 2026.

That honour is going to alliance partner Skytrans, a small airline part-owned by former Queensland and NRL star Thurston that will include a hydrogen-powered plane to its fleet.

The 15-seat Stralis B1900D-HE aircraft will be designed and built in Brisbane and its only emissions will be water vapour from its tailpipe.

The alliance, which aims to ensure Australia is a leader in aviation’s shift towards net zero by 2050, chose Brisbane and Gladstone for the route because they both have significant green hydrogen developments.

That includes C2H2 in central Queensland, which is the nation’s largest green hydrogen project.

“Today we push go on the first-ever emissions-free green hydrogen flight,” state Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said at the alliance launch at Brisbane Airport.

“This is a world first, this is a game changer, not just for Queensland, not just for the nation, but for aviation worldwide.”

Stralis Aircraft co-founder and CEO Bob Criner said the alliance “allows us to answer the most common question we hear from airline customers, which is how they will access affordable green hydrogen at airports in future”.

“This is not a problem we can solve on our own, it requires industry collaboration,” he said.

The alliance intends to establish a clean technology innovation hub in Queensland, and eventually aims for athletes at the 2032 Olympics to be flown around Queensland on locally built, emission-free aircraft.

The HFA includes Stralis Aircraft, Skytrans Airlines, Brisbane and Gladstone airports, Aviation Australia, BOC, H2 Energy Company, and Griffith Central Queensland universities.

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