MOSCOW: Air New Zealand announced on Wednesday that it will launch the first flights of the Beta ALIA electric cargo aircraft for commercial demonstrator flights between the airports of Wellington and Marlborough in 2026, reported Sputnik.

“Air New Zealand has today announced that it has selected Wellington and Marlborough Airports as the ports for its first all-electric aircraft... Wellington Airport will be the home base of Air New Zealand’s first next-generation aircraft, while Marlborough Airport will also establish charging infrastructure to power the aircraft for the return journey,“ the company said in a release.

The plane will initially operate a cargo-only service in partnership with New Zealand Post and will be carrying post between the airports, the company said.

Air New Zealand chief sustainability officer Kiri Hannifin said in the release that the “purpose of the commercial demonstrator is to set the New Zealand aviation system up for introducing lower emissions aircraft,“ according to the release.

Wellington Airport chief executive officer Matt Clarke added that “partnering with Air New Zealand to host the commercial demonstrator is a giant leap for sustainable aviation, providing the basis for all airports to prepare for the next generation of aircraft technology”.

The release also quoted Marlborough Airport chief executive officer Dean Heiford as saying that “decarbonising aviation is of global importance, and in New Zealand, maintaining regional connectivity through this transition is of national importance”.

The company said it purchased its first next-generation aircraft, the all-electric ALIA CTOL (conventional take-off and landing), from Beta Technologies last year. The aircraft is over 39 feet long and weighs three tonnes. It is capable of flying at a speed of up to 168 miles per hour. During the test flight, the aircraft has flown nearly 300 miles. A full charge of the battery is anticipated to take between 40 to 60 minutes. - SPUTNIK