Bell Flies Model 505 Helicopter On SAF

Bell 505 100% SAF
Credit: Bell

LONDON—Bell is claiming to be the first OEM to fly a single-engine rotorcraft using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). 

The helicopter manufacturer collaborated with engine producer Safran, fuel system supplier, GKN Aerospace and fuel providers Neste and Virent for the flight with a Bell 505 on Feb. 21. 

Bell states that the 100% sustainable drop-in fuel was made from used cooking oil and other bio-based feedstocks by Neste but featured an aromatics components made from renewable plant sugars.  

Often, SAFs are blended with petroleum products to give them the aromatics they need to meet aviation fuel specifications. Aromatics are one of the base molecules of fuels that give them viscosity and lubrication. 

Bell says the SAF used for their flight is therefore a “100% drop-in” replacement for petroleum-based aviation fuel, that requires no engine modifications. Use of 100% SAF can reduce a helicopter’s carbon emissions by 80%, industry claims. 

“Showcasing a single engine aircraft’s flight capabilities with 100% SAF signals Bell’s commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations,” said Michael Thacker, executive vice president for Bell’s commercial business. 

The flight is the latest in a series of helicopter SAF trials. In June 2022, Safran worked with Airbus to complete a 100% SAF flight using a Makila turboshaft powered H225 heavy helicopter, and earlier in February, the engine OEM carried out a test flight of a military NH90 helicopter on a SAF blend, meanwhile Bell itself has been using SAF on its own training fleet and demonstration aircraft.  

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.