Airbus Expands 100% SAF Tests To A380

Airbus A380 100% SAF
One of the A380’s four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines was run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel for the 3-hr flight.
Credit: Airbus

Airbus has flown an A380 with one of its four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines running on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), produced from used cooking oil and waste fats by France’s Total Energies. 

The March 25 flight followed earlier 100% SAF tests on the A350 and A319neo.

A380 test aircraft MSN1 conducted the three-hour test flight from Blagnac Airport in Toulouse and used 27 metric tons of unblended SAF produced by Total in Normandy. A second 100% SAF test flight, from Toulouse to Nice Airport, is planned for March 29. 

All tests of 100% SAF conducted by Airbus so far have used HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) fuel, the first SAF feedstock-to-fuel pathway to reach commercial production scale. The A350 flight in March 2021 used 100% HEFA SAF from Finnish fuel producer Neste in one Trent XWB engine.

Total previously supplied 57 metric tons of French-produced HEFA fuel to Airbus for flight tests of 100% SAF in one CFM International Leap-1A engine on an A319neo in October 2021. The fuel was also used in the flight of a Safran Makila 2-powered Airbus Helicopters’ H225 in November 2021 and will power an Safran Arrano-powered H160 on a 100% SAF test flight this year.

The A350 test flight was the latest milestone for engine maker Rolls, which is working to make its Trent civil engine family and business-jet powerplants compatible with 100% SAF by 2023 to support efforts by airframers like Airbus and Boeing to certify their aircraft to use 100% SAF by 2030.

In October 2021, Rolls Flew a Trent 1000―its engine for the Boeing 787―on 100% SAF on its 747-200 flying testbed, using HEFA fuel supplied by U.S. producer World Energy. Rolls has identified three key requirements for increasing SAF use to 100% from the maximum 50% blend now allowed: modified fuel quantity measurement systems, nitrile seal compatibility and appropriate viscosity at low temperatures. 

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.