A team of aerospace companies has launched an in-flight emissions study using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a widebody commercial passenger aircraft. Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste have teamed up to start the Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF3) project looking into the effects of 100 percent SAF on aircraft emissions and performance.
Findings 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.
Fuel-clearance engine tests, including a first flight to check operational compatibility of using 100 percent SAF with the aircraft’s systems, have started at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse, France. These will be followed by flight-emissions tests due to start in April and resuming in the autumn, using DLR’s Falcon 20-E chase plane to carry out measurements to investigate the emissions impact of using SAF. Meanwhile, further ground tests measuring particulate-matter emissions are set to indicate the environmental impact of SAF-use on airport operations.
Both the flight and the ground tests will compare emissions from the use of 100 percent SAF produced with HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) technology against those from fossil kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene. The SAF will be provided by Neste, a supplier of sustainable aviation fuel. Additional measurement and analysis for the characterisation of the particulate-matter emissions during the ground testing will be delivered by the UK’s University of Manchester and the National Research Council of Canada.