A380 Recently Flew World’s Largest Jet On Sustainable Aviation Fuel

The European aerospace firm Airbus may have opted more than three years ago to discontinue production of its double-decker A380 aircraft, but the corporation is currently utilizing one of those massive jets as a testbed to experiment with technologies that might play a role in the future of flying. A380 test aircraft took to the skies for around three hours last Friday, with one of its four engines fuelled entirely by 100-percent sustainable aviation fuel.

Airbus flew the same A380 for a second time today, this time for roughly two hours and with one engine powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel, also known as SAF, which is 100 percent renewable. These experiments were carried out using the aircraft’s remaining three engines, which were powered by normal jet fuel.

Airbus has flown several aircraft using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel in the past, including its A350 and A319neo planes last year, but this is the first time the company has experimented with the A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, on these recent trips. SAF program manager Steven Le Moing characterized the performance of the SAF-powered engine as “absolutely typical,” adding that it was the same as what they’d experienced in prior testing on the other aircraft.

Wolfgang Absmeier, the plane’s test pilot, confirmed the same findings. “From a pilot’s perspective, we didn’t detect any change,” he said in a video. According to the engineers in the rear, they looked at 1,000 characteristics, but at first inspection, there was absolutely no change.

Commercial aircraft are currently permitted to fly on a mixture of ordinary jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel (up to 50 percent SAF), but what makes these tests noteworthy is that one of the engines was powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). According to Airbus, the fuel in issue was derived mostly from “used cooking oil, as well as other waste fats.” It’s referred to as a HEFA fuel, which stands for hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids in the fuel industry.

In an interview with the University of Dayton’s Joshua Heyne, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, he said that “there is desire from industry to transition to the fuel that Airbus tested for this trip.”

However, he asserts that there are still concerns about utilizing this sort of SAF in its pure form, as opposed to a mix of it with conventional kerosene, and that these concerns have not been addressed. The first thing he is concerned about is whether or not it is compatible with the materials used in the aircraft, since it may possibly have an influence on seals, or o-rings, in the system and create leaks.

The second issue is the possibility that the fuel may have an impact on how the airplane assesses the amount of gasoline remaining in the tanks since it may have a different density than standard jet fuel. Airbus’ Le Moing claims that this second problem has been on their radar for some time. Among the problems he and his colleagues are researching is “the behavior of the gauging system,” he adds.

Because they provide a potential means of making the aviation sector greener and, in the ideal case, less contributory to global climate change, sustainable aviation fuels are attracting the attention of firms like as Airbus. Sustainable aviation fuels are a complicated issue, so here’s a primer on the subject. However, when considering their whole lifespan, they should have a lower carbon footprint than conventional aviation fuels. According to Heyne, HEFA fuels also emit less soot and are less prone to produce contrails as a result.

Aside from this Airbus test in the A380 and the company’s previous tests conducted last year, other firms have conducted testing utilizing sustainable aviation fuel in aircraft. The airline United, for example, recently performed a passenger trip on a 737 MAX with one of its engines powered entirely by environmentally friendly aviation fuel.

Moreover, Airbus has plans to utilize an A380 to test hydrogen fuel, albeit this will not take place for many years.

Although Airbus tested sustainable aviation fuels of the HEFA type, Heyne claims that the aviation sector is interested in the fuels, but he cautions that supply availability may be a problem. Heyne explains that “unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of wasted cooking oil out there; there isn’t enough of it to replace all of the aviation fuel we need,” which means that “we’ll have to look at other avenues.”

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