LONDON – A team composed of aviation specialists launch the first in-flight emission study with 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a wide-body passenger jet.

Airbus, German research center DLR, Rolls Royce, and Neste have partnered to start the ‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3) project, which looks into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions and performance.

According to an Airbus media release, testing of the engines for fuel clearance began at the Airbus plant in Toulouse, including a first flight to check the compatibility of using SAF at 100%.

The tests will continue in April, with a deadline in the fall. Meanwhile, further ground tests to assess particulate emissions are being designed to determine the environmental effect of using SAF on airport operations.

Both the flight and the ground tests will compare emissions from the use of 100% SAF produced with HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) technology against those from fossil kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene.

Airbus A350-1000 test flight Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Statement from New Energy Program Manager, Airbus

Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager, Airbus, said, “SAF is a vital part of Airbus’ ambition to decarbonize the aviation industry and we are working closely with a number of partners to ensure a sustainable future for air travel.”

“Aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum 50% blend of SAF and fossil kerosene; this exciting collaboration will not only provide insight into how gas-turbine engines function using 100% SAF with a view to certification, but identify the potential emissions reductions and environmental benefits of using such fuels in flight on a commercial aircraft too.”

Airbus A350-1000 test flight Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Statement from ECLIF Project Manager at DLR

Dr Patrick Le Clercq, ECLIF Project Manager at DLR, said: “By investigating 100% SAF, we are taking our research on fuel design and aviation climate impact to a new level. In previous research campaigns, we were already able to demonstrate the soot-reduction potential of between 30 and 50% blends of alternative fuels, and we hope this new campaign will show that this potential is now even greater.

“DLR has already conducted extensive research on analytics and modelling as well as performing ground and flight tests using alternative fuels with the Airbus A320 ATRA research aircraft in 2015 and in 2018 together with NASA.”

Airbus A350 flightlab at Tolouse Photo: Airbus

Statement from Director Product Development and Technology, Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace

Simon Burr, Director Product Development and Technology, Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, said, “In our post-COVID-19 world, people will want to connect again but do so sustainably. For long-distance travel, we know this will involve the use of gas turbines for decades to come.”

“SAF is essential to the decarbonisation of that travel and we actively support the ramp-up of its availability to the aviation industry. This research is essential to support our commitment to understanding and enabling the use of 100% SAF as a low-emissions solution.”

Airbus A350 flightlab at Tolouse Photo: Airbus

Statement from Neste’s Vice President Europe, Renewable Aviation

Jonathan Wood, Neste’s Vice President Europe, Renewable Aviation, said: “We’re delighted to contribute to this project to measure the extensive benefits of SAF compared with fossil jet fuel and provide the data to support the use of SAF at higher concentrations than 50%.”

“Independently verified analysis has shown 100% Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel delivering up to 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel use when all life-cycle emissions are taken into account; this study will clarify the additional benefits from the use of SAF.”

Featured image: Airbus A350-1000 test flight. Photo: Tony Bordelais/Airways