An Airbus H225 has performed the first ever helicopter flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) powering one of its Safran Makila 2 engines.

The flight, which took place at the company’s headquarters in Marignane (France) marked the start of a flight campaign to assess the impact of unblended SAF on the helicopter’s systems.  

“While all Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with up to a 50% blend of SAF mixed with kerosene, it is our company’s ambition to have its helicopters certified to fly with 100% SAF within the decade,” said Stefan Thome, Chief Technical Officer of Airbus Helicopters. The flight test campaign follows earlier unblended SAF bench tests performed by Safran Helicopter Engines at its Bordes plant.  

In the first test, the H225 helicopter flew with an unblended SAF derived from used cooking oil provided by TotalEnergies, a type of fuel that is claimed to offer a 90% CO2 impact reduction compared to regular jet fuel.  

Thome clarified that the new fuel does not affect the operational capabilities of the aircraft: “SAF is an important pillar of Airbus Helicopters’ decarbonisation strategy because it provides immediate CO2 reduction with no negative impact on the performance of the helicopter”.

He also hinted that, besides technical testing, an important area of upcoming work is efficient regulatory oversight. “Further cooperation among all industry stakeholders is essential to overcome the challenges associated with implementing SAF widely and to make real progress in reducing the aviation industry’s CO2 emissions.”  

Meanwhile, US company Bell has announced that a 525 test model completed its first flight using SAF this summer. The aircraft used ‘Neste MY SAF’ biofuel, sourced from Avfuel Corp. Bell is the first rotorcraft customer to use and complete flights using this particular type of biofuel. 

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Airbus Helicopters