A giant A380 has taken the skies in France with one engine powered by a sustainable cooking oil mix.
The three-hour flight took place on Friday (Saturday NZT) from Blagnac Airport, Toulouse. One of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines on the test flight used Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), making it the third Airbus aircraft to trial the mix after an A350 and an A319neo single-aisle aircraft.
The unblended SAF was provided by a French company, TotalEnergies. Twenty-seven tonnes was used during the flight, which was the first to trial SAF on all phases, from take-off and climb, to cruise and landing.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel is produced from sustainable feedstocks and is very similar in its chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. Using SAF results in a reduction in carbon emissions compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces over the lifecycle of the fuel. Some typical feedstocks used are cooking oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants; solid waste from homes and businesses, such as packaging, paper, textiles, and food scraps that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. Other potential sources include forestry waste, such as waste wood, and energy crops, including fast-growing plants and algae. Air bp’s SAF is currently made from used cooking oil and animal waste fat.
Airbus, which is hoping to launch the world’s first zero-emission aircraft by 2035, said the mix was made from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids, which are “free of aromatics and sulphur, and primarily consisting of used cooking oil, as well as other waste fats”. The company added that it is not mixed with any fossil fuels.
Airbus test pilot, Wolfgang Absmeier, said the flight “met all of our requirements, which will enable us to carry out the next phase of the project consisting of specific engine manoeuvres”.
”We didn’t notice any difference from a pilot point of view … It’s basically preparing the future for the next generation of aeroplanes, flying with sustainable aviation fuel.”
The A380 aircraft, MSN1, will undergo more trials before it will be modified to test Airbus’ first propulsion system using hydrogen. The plane will maintain its four conventional turbines, while a fifth engine adapted for hydrogen use will be mounted on the rear fuselage.
The A380 is one of the most beloved aircraft ever built.
At one stage it was seen as the future of aviation. It was state-of-the-art and could carry more than 800 passengers in quiet comfort. But it also proved expensive to run and airlines started to turn increasingly to smaller, more fuel-efficient planes.
In December last year, the final ever A380 superjumbo was handed over to its new owner, Emirates. The aircraft, which is registered as A6-EVS, was the 251st to be made. While production may have halted, the superjumbo will still be a frequent sight in the skies and airports for years to come.
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