The aviation industry, which accounts for nearly 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions, has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in order to help mitigate global warming. The industry believes that replacing jet fuel with “sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)” made from renewable sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste, and woody biomass will be the quickest path to net-zero emissions.
Commercial aircraft engines have been tested on 100 percent SAF by aviation companies and airlines. Airbus is one of them, having completed the first flight of its massive A380 jumbo jet using 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
On March 25, Airbus’ A380 test plane MSN 1 took off from Blagnac Airport in Toulouse, France. The flight lasted about three hours and used one Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine at full power. The aircraft was loaded with 27 tonnes of unblended SAF made from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA), free of aromatics and sulfur, and primarily composed of used cooking oil and other waste fats for the test flight. On March 29, a second flight with the same aircraft flew from Toulouse to Nice Airport to test the use of SAF during takeoff and landing.
This is the third Airbus aircraft type to fly on 100 percent SAF in a 12-month period as the company works to certify the technology by the end of the decade. The first two flights were made with an Airbus A350 in March 2021, followed by a SAF-operated A319neo single-aisle aircraft in October 2021.
According to Airbus, increasing the use of SAF remains a critical path to achieving the industry’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To highlight the potential of SAF, Airbus cites the Waypoint 2050 report, which states that SAF could contribute between 53% and 71% of required carbon reductions. Currently, all Airbus aircraft are certified to fly with up to a 50% blend of SAF and kerosene. The goal is to achieve 100 percent SAF certification by the end of this decade.
The A380 used in the test is the same plane that was recently revealed as Airbus’ ZEROe Demonstrator – a flying testbed for future technologies that will help bring the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.
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