SAF-powered Airbus Jet and Chase perform promising test flight


An Airbus A350 running on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) was chased by a Falcon aircraft during a recent test campaign. The test flight offered crucial insight, with initial results indicating that SAF has a positive impact on aircraft emissions.

The recent flight was part of ECLIF3, a project that includes Airbus, Rolls-Royce, German research center DLR and producer SAF Neste. It was the first time that 100% SAF was measured on the two engines of a commercial aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

“Engines and fuel systems can be tested on the ground, but the only way to gather all the emissions data necessary for the success of this program is to fly an aircraft in real conditions,” said Steven Le Moing, New Energies Program Manager at Airbus.

For this, a fighter jet had to closely follow the A350. This type of flight test, developed by NASA and the US Air Force, has been in use since the 1960s and offers valuable information that cannot realistically be obtained otherwise.

The recent test saw the DLR’s modified Dassault Falcon 20E-5 fly 328 feet (100 meters) behind the Airbus jet. Using its on-board scientific instruments, the fighter was able to collect essential in-flight data on SAF emissions performance.

The fuel used by the A350 is not blended with any fossil fuel, unlike current SAF blends. The analysis of the behavior and performance of SAF under real conditions plays an important role in obtaining a future certification.

The results will build on efforts by Airbus and Rolls-Royce that target large-scale adoption of SAF in the aviation sector as part of the broader goal of decarbonizing the industry.

Airbus aircraft are currently certified to operate on a maximum blend of 50% SAF and conventional fuel. The latest test is just the start of a series of flight tests that would see the company achieve 100% SAF certification across its entire fleet by 2030.

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