A team of aerospace specialists is using a wide-body passenger aircraft for the world’s first in-flight emissions study of 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a commercial jet aeroplane.

SAF producer Neste has teamed up with Airbus, German research centre DLR and Rolls-Royce to begin the pioneering ‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3) project, which is looking into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions and performance. 

Data from the study, which will be carried out on the ground and in the air using an Airbus A350-900 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the aviation sector is ready for the large-scale use of SAF as part of the wider initiative to decarbonise the industry.

The test programme will compare emissions from the use of 100% SAF produced with HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) against those from fossil kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene. 

Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager of Airbus, said: “Aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum fifty per cent 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.”

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