Airbus flies first helicopter with both engines burning 100% green fuel
Airbus has achieved a green aviation first as an H225 made the first-ever helicopter flight with both of its Safran Makila 2 engines running on 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which is usually derived from biomass, including waste fat, oil, and grease.
The recent test flight is part of Airbus' policy of reaching certification of 100 percent SAF by 2030 for both commercial aircraft and helicopters, and to achieve a reduction of helicopter carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent without a reduction in flight performance.
This follows on from a series of previous Airbus SAF tests, including the flight of an H225 with 100 percent SAF running one engine in November 2021, and on one engine of an A380 Jumbo Jet in March 2022. The purpose of these flights is not only to demonstrate the ability of engines to run on SAF without modifications, but also to measure its impact on the aircraft's systems.
These will be followed by tests on different types of helicopters using different fuels and engine configurations.
Intended to reduce aviation carbon dioxide emissions by up to 75 percent on the road to mandated net-zero goals by 2050, SAFs are produced mainly by the Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) process using waste and residues as the raw materials. These include waste fats, oils, and grease; municipal waste; agricultural and forestry waste; captured carbon; and waste gases.
One of the advantages of SAFs is that they are drop-in fuels that are nearly identical to their fossil-fuel-derived counterparts, and can currently be legally blended in ratios of up to 50 percent with conventional aviation fuels without engine modifications, resulting in lowered carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 85 percent over the aircraft's life cycle.
"This flight with SAF powering the twin engines of the H225 is an important milestone for the helicopter industry. It marks a new stage in our journey to certify the use of 100 percent SAF in our helicopters, a fact that would mean a reduction of up to 90 percent in CO2 emissions alone," said Stefan Thome, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer, Airbus Helicopters.