Glenorchy Air recently announced the purchase of a Daher Kodiak 100 Turboprop, the first of its kind to operate commercially in New Zealand.

The Kodiak’s engine is capable of running on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) when it becomes available. This was an important factor when selecting the aircraft as Glenorchy Air intends to become the first Queenstown-based operator to use SAF.

Daher Kodiak 100 Turboprop in flightDaher Kodiak 100 Turboprop

As the aviation industry seeks regenerative solutions to decarbonise air travel, SAF has emerged as a beacon of hope. Derived from renewable resources like municipal waste, forest residues, and used cooking oil, it’s seen to be a cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuels – with the potential to reduce emissions by 80%.

The chemical and physical characteristics of SAF are almost identical to those of traditional jet fuel. Meaning it can be used in aircraft with little or no modification for turbine fleets. Since 2016, more than 370,000 flights around the world have flown using SAF, according to the International Air Transport Association.

While the promise of SAF is exciting, it’s currently not available in New Zealand due to the high cost of establishing the initial infrastructure.

Encouragingly, Air New Zealand and the government have recently announced a $2milion investment in a feasibility study to determine the pathway to SAF in New Zealand.

Glenorchy AirGlenorchy Air sunrise flight. Credit @sophiepiearcey

As Marketing Manager, Joe Kirby explains, “Progress can be slow in the aviation world due to stringent safety measures, but small efforts still add up.”

Despite the challenges, Glenorchy Air remains dedicated to adopting SAF. They're working closely with Queenstown Airport, industry partners and the government to make SAF a viable reality and expect SAF production to be closer to realisation than electric or hydrogen planes. With their new purchase in the skies this October, 77% of Glenorchy Air’s fleet will be SAF-ready.

Air Glenorchy's Managing Director, James Stokes explains, "Aviation has a reputation as one of the major contributors of emissions. Whilst it may not be as large as what people perceive it to be, aviation does have an important role to play in emissions reduction, like all of us. Glenorchy Air takes this role seriously. We fly our passengers over some of the most untouched and beautiful natural environments in the world and see ourselves as guardians of this place. SAF is the first step towards a major reduction in emissions. Eventually, we'll look to move to electric and hydrogen propulsion when the technology advances to a viable and safe place."

KeaGlenorchy Air supports the Kea Conservation Trust

Glenorchy Air has committed to the ZQN Sustainability Pledge, is championing the Tiaki Promise, using renewable electricity, and is working to minimise waste. They have a goal of becoming net zero and have started their journey to reduce their emissions with Toitū.

They’re also supporting the Kea Conservation Trust, donating $1 from every fare. To date, their contributions have exceeded $10,000. In time it is hoped that this initiative will be used to help fund the proposed Kea Discovery Centre at Kiwi Park. This centre will play a vital role in rehabilitating injured birds and help educate visitors about the importance of conservation.

James acknowledges, “As a team, we’re constantly educating ourselves and assessing our working practices to find sustainable alternatives, step by step.”

Follow Glenorchy Air's regenerative journey as it takes flight, visit their website.