MIAMI – Airbus flew its A350 using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) recently. It is the first time a commercial jet aircraft reaches this goal. The aircraft manufacturer published a video and a press release delivering some early results of the studies on the flight.

The aircrafts involved were an A350-900XWB and a modified Dassault Falcon 20E5. The A350 was Airbus flight-test aircraft. It was used for the certification of the type and is now used as a test aircraft for the studies at Airbus. The Falcon 20 was used as a chase aircraft, to make observations, take some images and collect engineering data.

The aircraft flew for about three hours above the south of France. They flew within 100 meters (300ft) from each other during the flight. It can seem dangerous to fly aircraft so close to each other. However, according to Airbus Test Pilot Mark Lewis, they were “able to conduct a safe flight, flying relatively close to one another, but perfectly safely.”

The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines were able to power the widebody for three hours using only SAF. The first results of this study are very satisfying according to the Airbus team. This in-flight test allows Airbus to measure the emissions directly in the sky with the chase aircraft.

This is an A350 Flight Test aircraft, also used for studies at Airbus. Photo: Alberto Cucini / Airways

Promising Early Results

According to Toby Wells, Airbus’ Head of Future Fuels, “preliminary observations from the test flight with the chase aircraft suggest unblended SAF can have a positive impact on aircraft emissions.”

“As we predicted, the particulate emissions of the aircraft were lower when using the 100% SAF. These particulates play a role in the formation of contrails, which contribute to aviation’s climate impact, so we’re pleased to have a solution to address those emissions.” 

Though, the study is not yet finished, as “there is still a lot more data to analyze to gain a full understanding of unblended SAF’s emissions performance. However, initial results are indeed very promising.” The study is expected to be published towards the end of next year.

Today, a mix with a maximum of 50% of SAF is allowed for commercial operations. It is the first time a flight is operated with 100% SAF. This flight and this study may allow regulations to change, and we could see some evolution in the years to come for modern aircraft.

Featured image: The flight involved two different aircrafts. Photo: Airbus