An Airbus-led team has tested flying an Airbus A350 with one engine entirely powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), in a bid to better understand the performance and emissions of such high blends. The tests will continue, with one of the aircraft’s two Trent XWB using the pure SAF blend.
Why is a 100% SAF flight important?
Sustainable fuel comes from feedstock, rather than traditional jet fuel, and as a result, it can reduce carbon emission per flight by up to 80%. SAFs are currently mixed with traditional jet fuels, usually around 50% SAF to 50% traditional fuel. This percentage is known as the blend. The higher the blend, the less carbon an aircraft will emit.
Whilst SAFs are becoming increasingly common, there are still challenges to overcome until 100% SAF blends become allowed and commonplace. One of the largest issues is discerning just what the impact of 100% SAF blends will be. The exact emissions of different greenhouse gases, particles and how high its energy density is.
The project is a collaboration, between Airbus, Rolls Royce, DLR and Neste. Steven Le Moing, Airbus’s New Energy Programme Manager, said that the 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%”.
Not just focused on carbon
Whilst the project will investigate the impacts of 100% SAF on carbon emissions, this is only one aspect of what the test flights will examine. Steven emphasises that “decarbonising aviation is not just about reducing CO2 emissions”. Adding that “our priority is to deal with the complete climate-impact challenge, which includes overall greenhouse gases and other aircraft emissions”.
The test flights will also look at the effect 100% SAF has on:
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen dioxide (NOx)
- Water vapour
- Aerosol and sulphate aerosol particles
- Contrails and contrail cirrus clouds
What do you think of this latest SAF development? Let us know in the comments below!