Airbus A330MRTT completes first 100% SAF test flight with both engines

  • The RAF Voyager’s flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel is the world’s first for an operational military transport
  • Robust Test Plan has enabled the world’s first flight without a single drop of fossil fuel on board
The Airbus A330MRTT RAF Voyager takes off from RAF Brize Norton for the first time, powered by 100% SAF on both engines. © MoD Crown.

The Royal Air Force, Airbus and other industry partners have completed the world’s first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight on an operational military aircraft. It is also the first 100 per cent SAF flight of any aircraft type to be operated in UK airspace.

An RAF Voyager – the military variant of the Airbus A330 airliner – took to the skies over RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England, on Wednesday, powered entirely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel in both engines, paving the way for a number of opportunities for the Future of flying military aircraft.

The flight was a joint effort by the RAF, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the UK Ministry of Defense’s Defense Equipment and Support Agency, UK aircraft leasing company AirTanker and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, with fuel supplied by Air bp.

Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space, said: “True to our aim of being “pioneering aerospace”, we were happy to support the Royal Air Force in this pioneering test flight using sustainable fuel. I commend our UK customer for this achievement which is helping to pave the way for a sustainable reduction in CO2 emissions from our military aircraft fleets. Airbus engineers have made a significant contribution to this RAF mission by providing their on-site expertise and obtaining the required military clearances to fly from the Ministry of Defense over the past few weeks.”

Sustainable aviation fuel – made from waste-based, sustainable feedstock, in this case used cooking oil – reduces life cycle CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to the conventional fuel it replaces, reduces the RAF’s dependence on global supply chains and improves operational endurance by reducing the need for refueling.

With different approaches suited to different platforms and environments, a range of alternative fuel options will be explored to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this evolving technology.

The 90-minute return flight from RAF Brize Norton, flown by a combined Airbus, RAF and Rolls-Royce flight test crew, replicated an air-to-air refueling mission and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry officials. The RAF said it had demonstrated the potential for its future operational capability and ensured the ability to contribute to British defenses wherever and whenever required.

Experimental test pilot and flight captain Jesus Ruiz said: “From the crew’s point of view, the SAF operation was “transparent”, which means that no operational differences were identified. The test plan was comprehensive and robust, allowing us to compare SAF to JET1, culminating in a flight without a single drop of fossil fuel. Teamwork made a significant contribution and harmonized experiences from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the RAF. We are very proud to be a small part of this big step for sustainable aviation.”

brize norton, November 18, 2022

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