British Airways is backing a firm planning to develop 50-plus seat aircraft capable of running on zero emissions hydrogen-electric power.

The airline is one of a series of investors pumping in $24.3 million into the ZeroAvia initiative in a bid to speed up plans to decarbonise commercial aviation.

The funding will enable ZeroAvia to launch a new programme to further demonstrate the credibility of its technology and accelerate the development of a larger hydrogen-electric engine, capable of flying further and using larger aircraft as soon as 2026.

ZeroAvia could achieve commercialisation for its hydrogen-electric power as early as 2024, with flights of up to 500-miles in up to 20-seater aircraft.

The firm expects to have 50-plus seat commercial aircraft in operation in five years’ time with the help of the investment.

It also accelerates the company’s vision of powering a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia achieved the world’s hydrogen-electric flight last September of a commercial-grade aircraft.

The investment supports the BA’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Chief executive Sean Doyle said: “Innovative zero emissions technology is advancing fast and we support the development of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source because we believe it has the potential to enable us to reach true zero emissions on short-haul routes by 2050.

“There is a huge amount of energy and excitement building around the possibilities of a zero emissions future for aviation and while there is no single solution to this challenge, we acknowledge the need for urgent action to tackle the impact flying currently has on our planet and are making progress on our journey to net zero.”

ZeroAvia founder and chief executive Val Miftakhov added: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With the airline industry lining up and ready to shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.

“We are extremely grateful to British Airways and our other investors, who are helping speed up our progress and ultimately the aviation industry’s adoption of zero-emission flight.”