An A350 fuelled by 100% SAF just took off
The study of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)’s impact on the full scope of aircraft emissions has been few and far between. An Airbus-led project is looking to change that by conducting a series of flight and ground tests aimed at shedding light on the emissions performance of 100% SAF.
Today, all Airbus aircraft are certified to fly with up to a 50% blend of SAF mixed with kerosene. But the emissions performance of SAF when unblended with any type of fossil fuel has remained a question mark across the industry—until now.
The Airbus-led Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels project, in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, German aerospace research centre DLR and oil refining company Neste, has set its sights on providing insight on that very question.
Throughout the year, the project will test the emissions performance of 100% SAF on one engine of a Trent XWB-powered A350 test aircraft in the air and on the ground. It is the first in-flight study of its kind using a commercial passenger jet.
“SAF is one of the aviation industry’s best low-carbon solutions with an immediate impact on CO2 emissions today,” Steven Le Moing, Airbus New Energy Programme Manager, says. “This research project will help us to better understand the impact of unblended SAF on the full scope of aircraft emissions, while supporting SAF’s future certification for blends that exceed today’s maximum of 50%.”
Ground tests will measure particulate emissions in local environments, while flight tests will assess the volume and consistency of contrails. Initial fuel clearance tests have already begun.
“The first flight went exceptionally well,” explains Emiliano Requena Esteban, Airbus Flight Test Engineer. “There’s no perceptible difference in engine behaviour between jet fuel and SAF. It’s very exciting for me to contribute to a project that participates in the decarbonisation of our skies!”